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Adolescent Development Theory Essay



The given scenario focuses on Ella. She is 15 years old and a freshman in high-school. She has a brother who was recently discharged from a substance-use inpatient center. Her parents were separated for four months but just reconciled. She loved school and was an outgoing girl. Then Ella lost interest in school and extracurricular activities; she started arguing with her brother and parents, stopped talking to her friends, and lost 15 pounds of weight. Her mother was previously diagnosed with anorexia nervosa but has not displayed any signs of it for five years.

Required Additional Information

It would be useful to know what led her to weight loss of 15 pounds in such a short time and if it has anything to do with her mother’s previous anorexia nervosa diagnosis. In the case study, her relationship with parents and brother are not described favorably. I would like to know more about her opinion about these relationships. If possible, information about her activity on the computer would help. This information could be important to create an accurate diagnosis (Dolgin, 2010).

Appropriate Adolescent Development Theories

I believe, two theories of development are best suited for this case. The first one is the ecological systems theory of adolescent development created by Urie Bronfenbrenner, and I think it is the one I would use in this case. He focused on the influence the environment around the child has on their development. Bronfenbrenner separated all the environmental factors into four levels: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem. The three levels most related to the case are the microsystem, or interaction with family members and school, mesosystem, which concerns the way parents are interacting with the activities of the child, and the exosystem that involves events that affect the close relationships of the child. Ella’s family is shown to have a variety of issues that could affect her. Her parents have been going through a separation that must have been preceded by arguments and fights even before Ella’s behavioral change leading to increased stress at home. Her younger brother has a drinking problem which could create a distance between the siblings. The parents could have opposing views on how to raise Ella, and this would hinder her development. Although the separation happened at least two months after Ella started to act differently, it can be considered an environmental factor that perpetuated her negative state (Rosa & Tudge, 2013).

The second theory that can be applied is the Social Cognitive Learning Theory of Albert Bandura. He proposed that children learn social behavior from people around them, presenting the people as models of behavior. For the first ten years of Ella’s life, her mother suffered from anorexia nervosa. At this stage of development, Ella starts to be increasingly concerned about her appearance and her memory of her mother’s behavior could be triggering this sudden weight loss. It is also likely that the fights her parents had could lead her to imitate their abrasive attitude to each other (Rosenthal & Zimmerman, 2014).

Because of how much her microsphere is affected we can see the similarities between the cognitive and social perspectives on her issues. This is a time of change for any child and having so much stress in her home life can only have an adverse effect. The psychodynamic perspective presumes that all behavior has a cause. Although it is difficult to say which specific aspect lead Ella to change her behavior without more information, her behavior might likely be an uncourteous reaction to her home environment. I believe that the school does not play as big a part in this study because no previous problems have been established, even though the pressure to be an A-grade student could have affected her (Balfour & Tasca, 2015).


Balfour, L., & Tasca, G. (2015). Eating disorders and attachment: A contemporary psychodynamic perspective. MALTRATTAMENTO E ABUSO ALL’infanzia, (1), 55-72. Web.

Dolgin, K. (2010). Adolescent development, relationships, and culture (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Rosa, E., & Tudge, J. (2013). Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory of human development: Its evolution from ecology to bioecology. Journal Of Family Theory & Review, 5(4), 243-258. Web.

Rosenthal, T., & Zimmerman, B. (2014). Social learning and cognition. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.

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