Substance Abuse Analysis Using Erikson’s Stages of Development

1 January 2017

Substance abuse is an enormous social problem in South Africa, as elsewhere. But in South Africa in particular, drugs and alcohol are devastating society, aggravating poverty and crime, and subsidising to child abuse and gender violence. This essay will discuss this issue of substance abuse by the South African adolescence. It will also scrutinize the concept of resilience in light of a South African youth at risk; the essay will also discuss Erikson’s theory of development and attempt to apply it to real life, as well as discoursing its strengths and weaknesses.

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In trying to resolve the applicability of Erikson’s theory the essay is going to introduce the other theorist who would credibly be more relevant to real South African context. The essay is also going to discuss some of the concerns that are influential to human moral development and their effects to the concept of resilience. The issues to be discussed are; influence of the type of relationship that adolescents have with their parents and peer group, environmental factors and cultural influences to moral development and resilience.

Erikson’s best-known work is his theory that each stage of life is associated with a specific psychological struggle, a struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality. Erikson emphasised that an individual reaches optimal development, when they mastered developmental tasks. The developmental tasks he mentioned are; reading, completing school, managing sexual maturity in adolescence and choosing a career or vocation. Erikson identified eight stages of development and these are; oral-sensory, muscular-anal, loco motor, latency, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood and maturity.

In these stages the first five are described as mimic developmental stages of Freud’s psychosexual development. Erikson argued that people face psychosocial dilemmas in each of these stages, that is, conflict between personal impulses & the social world (Coon & Mitter). In his theory Erikson also identified the importance of consciousness and culture as emphasized by Sigmund Freud on his theory; psychodynamic approach. The focus of this essay is on two stages Erikson identified and that seem to be more relevant for the discussion of substance abuse in South Africa.

The two stages are; adolescence and young adulthood. Erikson classified the adolescence as from the age of 12 to 18 years; according to Erikson the basic conflict in this stage is, identity versus role confusion and the impotent event is peer relationships. In this stage the teenager must achieve a sense of identity in occupation, sex-roles, politics, and religion. The young adulthood stage is from, 19 to 40 years and the basic conflict in this stage is; intimacy versus isolation, the important event is love relationships.

In young adulthood, the young adult must develop intimate relationships or suffer feelings of isolation. The most appropriate example of youth at risk in a South African context is a youth involved in substance abuse in school. Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems, including mental health, poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are negative consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society.

Due to substance abuse, there will be declining grades on school work, absentisime, and high potential for dropping out of school and sporting activities. Substance abuse could also affect the adolescence physically thus injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of teenage substance abuse. There is also a number of youth involved with alcohol and other drugs that face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident, and illness.

There is also a high spread of HIV and AIDS through unsafe sex and sex with strangers promoted by the drug abusers, who even spend a lot of their time in bars and exposing to this risk of HIV and AIDS. These factors may have a negative impact on development. There are also mental health problems such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions which are linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Substance abusing youth are at risk rather than the unusers for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide.

Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills. The other issues are that, youths who are involved in substance abuse are withdrawn from their peers and are living an isolated life, they are not even bound to their families, which is a risk in the sense that, they don’t have warmth of the family and support from peers yet prone to be involved in suicidal issues. In light of the above, the youths are exposed to risky factors which are influential to their development.

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