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Human Development Theories: Adolescence and Adulthood Essay


Lapsley et al. argue that adolescence is a social construction. Explain their point of view: what is a social construction, and what evidence led to their theory?

In the growth and development stage of a human being, the adolescent period has been considered to be a natural stage found between childhood and adulthood. However, Lapsley et.al., observe that it is a social construct that brings certain understandings (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2013). Based on social imagination, individuals in this stage or social group are unique. This factor makes adolescents be a separate subculture that is different from other stages in human development.

Capps (2009) points out that numerous changes have been witnessed in the history of adolescents. some of the changes have been brought out by the institutionalization of recreation, education, immigration, urbanization, industrialization, and cultural aspects. These factors have contributed to massive sociological changes that Lapsley et.al., attribute to the current view of the adolescent as individuals who lack privileges and responsibilities attached to adults (Sigelman & Rider, 2012).

Besides, the adolescent stage of development is a period whereby an individual experiences vast physical and psychological growth (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). Identity crisis is the most significant aspect that individuals in this stage face in the course of their development. At this stage, individuals may gain the necessary sense of trust, competence, control, and independence (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). In particular, they are faced with vocation problems and sexual orientation. They easily become a subject of unhealthy peer pressure that eventually leads them to conflicts.

Kail and Cavanaugh (2013) define social construction as to how a society dignifies a certain group of people. Moreover, the byproducts of choices made by a group of human beings are social constructs. These are opposed to essentialism that focuses on efforts to generate and participate in the creation of social phenomena through knowledge and interpretations. Theoretically, it is believed that a social construct is not natural since it is based on social facts gained from human existence.

Arguments for social constructs indicate that social reality best explains the theory. Orsmond, Krauss, and Seltzer (2004) indicate that social reality, in this case, is based on institutions and social mores as well as traditions. Each individual has a social and natural reality based on experience that exists through inter-subjective interactions or by natural independence. However, critics of this imagination indicate that relying on facts as presented by social constructs theory makes the whole meaning relative since there is a possibility that the knowledge of the truth might be non-existent (Sigelman & Rider, 2012).

Describe the transition to adulthood in contemporary America

Transition into adulthood in contemporary America marks a major passage of an individual from being a teenager to an adult. Success in the early stages is marked by a strong capability of intimacy among individuals. Since this stage is strongly linked to events of love and relationships, Erickson’s theory indicates that individuals without a clear sense of identities fear commitments and hence, may retreat to isolation. This might hurt the smoothness and continuity of the transition process. In the non-industrialized countries and particularly in the past 20th century, this transition process could have been smoother due to the differences in economic demands. Barkway (2009) points out that the latter is factual because changes in transitions have been affected and linked to the economic background of an individual since many people view financial stability as a major step for future progress.

Developmental theories are said to vary along three continuums. What are these continuums?

Nature versus nurture

The debate on nature versus nurture focuses on the personal experiences and innate qualities of an individual. It shapes the overall behavioral characteristics. Piaget notes that individuals in their particular stages of growth adopt certain characteristics depending on how they are nurtured (Sparks, 2000). Debate on nurture mainly points out biological factors necessary for the growth of an individual while nature centers on environmental factors.

Isolation versus role confusion

This particular continuum occurs when adolescents seek to learn about themselves. It involves exploring a means of solving problems or challenges in life. Erickson indicates that in this stage, an individual lacks a clear sense of identity, fears commitments, and may retreat to isolation (Sparks, 2000). However, this group commits itself to make new friends.

Generativity versus stagnation

Erickson indicates that this stage provides an individual with the ability to have an extended view of life and thus offer care to others (Sparks, 2000). Successful completion of the earlier stages culminates into adulthood. An adult seeks new identities where thoughts of death are overshadowed by their efforts to generate greater levels of goodwill in society. However, if this crisis is not addressed, people may mostly be highly self-centered and undergo a period of stagnation.

Describe the three primary research method approaches used in developmental psychology. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each one?

Understanding research methods to be employed during the developmental stage forms a major facet in determining the viability of the results to be achieved. The three primary research methods include systematic observations, self-report, and case study.

Strengths and weaknesses

Systematic observation is very critical in noting changes in an individual’s characteristics while undergoing the development stage. However, it does not allow for the necessary information required during testing the established hypothesis. This may be a major undoing factor for the study because it reduces the applicability of the findings to a particular stage of development.

Self-reports allow a researcher to determine the causal relationship between stages and the variables. Developmental stages have different aspects that could be studied from various angles. In this respect, this method may lack the holistic approach that the researcher seeks to generate in line with the research purpose and the guiding factors. The case study reveals a clear picture of a whole process of development. However, this method may lead to a replication effect whereby previous errors are ignored. The latter may negatively impact the overall outcome of the new study results.


Barkway, P. (2009). Psychology for Health Professional. Sydney: Elsevier Australia.

Capps, D (2009). Norman Vincent Peale, Smiley Blanton and the Hidden Energies of the mind, Journal of Religion and Health 48(4), 507-527.

Kail, R. & Cavanaugh, J. (2013). Human development: a life-span view.: A Life-Span. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Orsmond, G, Krauss, M & Seltzer, M, (2004). Peer relationships and social and recreational activities among adolescents and adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder 34(3) 245-256.

Sigelman, K. & Rider, E. (2012). Life-span human development. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Sparks, J. (2000). The deconstruction of magic: Rereading, rethinking Erickson. Family process, 39(3) 307-311.

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