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The Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood

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As a child blossoms into the adolescent stage, there is a process they will enter where they will begin to figure out who they are & pass through numerous stages along the way known as a life transition. During this time, it is described as a time in an individual’s life where a specific event(s) may cause major changes to one’s life that results in either a negative or positive impact. To adjust during this period, an individual is generally required to make appropriate adjustments, develop or refine new skills, and/or learn to cope effectively. Specifically, during adolescence, this is a time of great change for individuals. Adolescence is known as the development occurring between 12-18 years of age with adulthood to follow.

During this developmental stage, not only will there be an obvious physical change, additionally they will experience cognitive, social, and psychosocial changes as well. This is a critical and sensitive period in a child’s life, therefore the child is vulnerable to all outside influences which may be positive or negative. Children in this age range are prone to many influences including peer pressure, popularity, drugs/alcohol, body shaming, sexual orientation, bullying, as well as many other challenges this age group faces.

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Four types of development that adolescent children experience are: physical, cognitive, social, and psychosocial. As described on www.healthychildren.org, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that physical development is the obvious biological changes of puberty & by middle adolescence – they’re at or close to their adult height & weight making it capable of procreating (American Academy of Adolescence 2012, November 16). The cognitive development stage is known as the thinking and thought processes that are influenced by a child’s genetic makeup – social-emotional, motor development, and environmental factors (Wagenfeld, A., Kaldenberg, J., & Honaker, D. 2017). During this time, children begin to think in more concrete & complex ways. As we grow closer to adulthood, this will change into more formal, logical thinking. During adolescence, teenagers will also start an emotional rollercoaster. They will begin to distance themselves from their parents or family members and begin to discover their own independence. While doing so, emotions fluctuate up and down, become less affectionate with their parents or family members, spend more time with their friends, and overall push their limits! While discovering aspects of their social development, this means the teen will participate in and interpret interpersonal relationships. For example, developing friendships with individuals of different ethnic or racial groups, genders, and adults. Eventually, teenagers will also begin to find interest in romantic relationships with the opposite sex. Not all children start or end adolescence at the same age – development varies between each child and genders.

Lastly, the psychosocial aspect of development in adolescence goes hand in hand with their social development. According to B. Bradford Brown – there are four psychosocial tasks that teenagers must accomplish such as:

1. to stand out—to develop an identity and pursue autonomy,

2. to fit in—to gain acceptance from peers,

3. to measure up—to develop competence and find ways to achieve,

4. to take hold—to make commitments to goals, activities, and beliefs (Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee on the Science of Adolescence. 1970, January 01).

Ultimately, the psychosocial aspect of adolescence varies from adults in the way that information is viewed or interpreted as risky. An adult’s critical thinking process is more complex and advanced than adolescence. Therefore, the four tasks listed above are shaped differently by adults from experience, context, and culture. By not participating in critical areas, it will severely impact development down the road. The fundamental purpose of these tasks I’ve outlined is to form one’s own identity and to prepare for adulthood.

Engaging in risky behavior also puts adolescence at an increased risk to be a victim of various health hazards. This is a crucial time for a teenagers current and future health as these behaviors could pose a threat to their future with long-term effects. Childhood obesity, substance abuse, mental health issues, and unsafe sexual behavior are just a few examples. According to a study done by the CDC in 2013, about 57% of male high school students and only 37% of female students reported getting 60 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week (Office of Adolescent Health. 2016, October 28). Additionally, in 2013 – roughly 1/13 adolescents reported having used one or more tobacco products (Office of Adolescent Health. 2016, October 28).

As mentioned previously, the transition from adolescent to adulthood stage in life can be rather dynamic between social behaviors, discovering their personal style, choosing what type of people they want their friends to be, cognitive and physical changes, etc. In the recent March 2019 volume of J-14 magazine, there are multiple articles that are geared towards the adolescent age range. During this age, children are easily influenced by social media, magazines such as J-14, their peers, the television, etc. The first impression I received from just the front page of this magazine is that it is largely geared towards adolescent females. The front cover has large bright pink font to grab the girl’s attention, along with three young, cute, celebrity boys and a popular beautiful female singer that has her makeup professionally done. This is influencing and promoting sexual interest in the opposite sex and gives the impression that young girls should look a certain way to feel beautiful. When children are learning & developing into their own identity, they may feel pressured that they need to look like the stars in the magazines. Therefore, creating a negative self-image of themselves if they don’t look that way.

As childhood obesity, mental illness, substance abuse, suicide, & bullying in children become more of an issue, it only makes sense that an intervention needs put in place. occupational therapy is a great way to intervene at such a sensitive time in children’s lives. OT can positively impact the adolescent population by providing them with the necessary tools and background to choose healthy habits, routines, and effectively manage chronic conditions (Lau, C. 2016, September 01). Not only can occupational therapy promote a healthy lifestyle to ensure a long quality of life – but OT will also promote healthy interpersonal relationships, proper study habits, routines, and recognize any additional accommodations the child may need to be successful in their education. If the child can be successful in their schooling, their self-confidence is raised, therefore their quality of interpersonal relationships with their peers is increased.

Occupational therapy does not specifically focus on primarily the youth or the geriatric population – OT encompasses anyone and everyone who could benefit from services such as: strengthening their physical, cognitive, & psychosocial habits and routines. Ultimately, to create a positive impact on your everyday life by participating in goal-directed occupations that have meaning to you. For example, activities that would be appropriate for teen-based OT-services that encompass their physical, cognitive, social, and psychosocial development would include:

Physical – Motor planning; arrange a maze of various objects for the child to climb over, under, around, etc. to practice their balance and motor planning.

Cognitive – Planning & organizing; go on a trip with the student to his/her locker to plan out the books needed for certain classes & when. Organize their locker to easily get to the materials needed for those classes.

Social – Self-esteem building activities such as asking the child to make a list of their positive qualities & reading it out loud. Or, by engaging in a group activity they must learn to rely on one another, working together by using blocks or paper to create the project assigned.

Psychosocial – Encourage a team sport for the child to participate in; they will be faced with dynamic teen issues amongst the team and discover it may be an achievement they value. Therefore, the child will learn to develop healthy habits that will help them achieve success in that activity & discover their sense of self along with discovering peers who value the same interests.

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