Our research team is particularly interested in the changes that happen in adolescence. Although we still have a lot to learn, we have come a long way over the years. Here is a historical perspective on what we have learned about adolescence over the years.
G. Stanley Hall was one of the first "modern-day" psychologists to study and write about adolescents. In 1904, Hall wrote a book in which he theorized that the lifelong growth and development of each person reflects the growth and development of the species over time. According to Hall, adolescence represents the point in human evolution when we first became rational, higher-level being, but were still "savages." He described adolescence as the "infancy of man's higher nature," during which "more completely human traits" began to emerge (and you thought you were human already!). He wrote about the mood swings of adolescents, "Now it is prone to laughter, hearty and perhaps almost convulsive…But this, too, reacts into pain and dysphoria…Young people weep and sigh, they know not why." He described adolescence as a period of "storm and stress," because the adolescent is emotionally unstable, "strewn with wreckage of body, mind, and morals…hoodlumism, juvenile crime, and secret vice." Not too flattering! Despite this rather unfavorable characterization of teenagers, Hall's comments were not all negative. Hall believed adolescence was the most critical period of life, and represented the initiation into adulthood. He argued that the adolescent years were "sacred," and that it was wise for parents and psychologists to allow these changes to take place without interference.
Now our views of adolescence are more balanced. We agree that many biological and cognitive changes take place, but now we know that these years are not as traumatic as was once believed, especially when we are well prepared for the transition. Adolescents are able to accept more responsibilities, think in more complex and abstract ways, and make plans for the future. Even though we know more now than when G. Stanley Hall was writing, we are still trying to learn as much as we can about the transition through adolescence. Our study on family and peer relationships through adolescence is part of the ongoing research in this field, and we hope that the information you provide will make this transition even smoother.