Presentation on theme: "Theories of Youth and Adolescence"— Presentation transcript:
1 Theories of Youth and Adolescence Maurice DevlinNUI MaynoothCDI Seminar29 April 2010
2 Legal definitions: when does a “child” become a “youth”? Child Care Act 1991‘Child’ means a person under the age of 18 other than a person who is or has been married.
3 Legal definitions Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 ‘Young person’ means a person who has reached 16 years of age or the school-leaving age (whichever is higher) but is less than 18 years of age.The First Schedule to this Act consists of the EU Council Directive 94/33/EC, according to which:‘Young person’ shall mean any person under 18 years of age…;‘Child’ shall mean any young person of less than 15 years of age or who is still subject to compulsory full-time schooling under national law;‘Adolescent’ shall mean any young person of at least 15 years of age but less than 18 years of age who is no longer subject to compulsory full-time schooling under national law.
4 Legal definitions Children Act 2001 ‘Child’ means a person under the age of 18 years.Age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 12; ‘rebuttable presumption’ that 12 & 13 year-olds incapable of committing a crime [this section of the Act never ‘commenced’]
5 Legal definitionsChildren Act 2001 as amended by the Criminal Justice Amendment Act 2006Age of criminal responsibility raised to 12 except for crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape and aggravated sexual assault – raised to 10. ‘Rebuttable presumption’ abolished.
6 Legal definitions Education (Welfare) Act 2000 ‘Child’ means a person resident in the State who has reached the age of 6 years and who(i) has not reached the age of 16 years, or(ii) has not completed 3 years of post-primary education,whichever occurs later, but shall not include a person who has reached the age of 18
7 Legal definitions Youth Work Act 2001 A ‘young person’ means a person who has not attained the age 25 years
8 Legal definitions Complexity of law reflects complexity of The nature of youthAttitudes of adults towards young people (‘…the ambiguities of the law reflect the ambiguities of the society’s conception of youth’ - Berger & Berger, Sociology: A Biographical Approach, Penguin 1976)Attitudes characterised by ambivalencerelated to stereotypingSee M. Devlin Inequality and the Stereotyping of Young People (Equality Authority 2006)
9 Theoretical perspectives ‘There is nothing as practical as a good theory.’Kurt Lewin, American psychologist
10 Theoretical perspectives (1) The key thing to understand is that there are major changes – physical, emotional, intellectual – happening for individual young people, and therefore for adolescents as a group.
11 Theoretical perspectives (2) The key thing to understand is that there is a distinctive “youth culture” which marks young people out from adults, leading to a “generation gap”. This is not always a bad thing.
12 Theoretical perspectives (3) The key thing to understand is that people’s experiences are shaped not so much by the age they are as by their class background, their gender, ethnicity and other major types of inequality.
13 Theoretical perspectives (4) The key thing to understand is the transition(s) young people are going through in the roles & positions they occupy both in their private lives (e.g. family) and their ‘public’ lives (e.g. school to work)
14 Theoretical perspectives (5) The key thing to understand is that “adolescence” or “youth” isn’t something fixed and solid, waiting to be discovered, like a room for which we just need the door key. It is something that gets created, constructed and changed over time through individual and social actions.
15 Putting names on the perspectives Developmental (emphasis on individual development)Generational (emphasis on youth culture and intergenerational relations)Structural conflict (emphasis on different experiences of young people in different social groups)Transitional (emphasis on changing roles and positions)Constructionist (emphasis on how ideas and practices get constructed and changed)
16 Developmental perspectives Physical changeCognitive development (e.g. Piaget’s ‘formal operational’ stage)Moral development (e.g. Kohlberg’s ‘pre- to post-conventional morality’)Overall personal, social and emotional development (e.g. Erikson on identity)Ecological dimension (e.g. Bronfenbenner)
17 Generational perspectives Distinctive youth culture in modern societiesPerforms positive social functionsSocialisation – both “conservative” and “creative”
18 Conflict perspectives Inspired by Marx ( ) and other radical political thought in e.g. feminism; Black movement; dis/ability; queer theory etcThere is no single “youth culture” encompassing all young peopleConsider the different experiences of different classes, young men vs women etc
19 Transitional perspectives Transition for school to work (“TSW”)Transition from family of origin to “family of option”These transitions used to be parallel and unidirectional for most young peopleBut there were class and gender differences (and others)Now much more complex
20 “Traditional” transitions End of studiesEducation Employment____________________________///____________________________ \\//Education-employment axisLeaving homeLiving at home Living with partner____________________________///_____________________________\\Family-marriage axisChildhood and adolescence Adulthood
21 Constructionist perspectives “The adolescent was invented at the same time as the steam engine” (Frank Musgrove)Link with Peter Berger, cited earlierIdeas like “youth” and “adolescence” should not be seen as “essential” and fixed (leading to stereotyping)Both societies and individuals can create/construct change
22 “Lenses”Each perspective is like a set of lenses through which to apprehend and understand ‘youth’ in contemporary society, and depending on which set we choose, our attention will be drawn to some features rather than others. Indeed some features will remain virtually hidden unless a particular set of lenses is chosen.
23 No one is the “right” one The point…is not to choose one of these perspectives, but rather to weigh their arguments one against the other (in the light of our own experience and that of the young people we work with) and draw on them as appropriate in different settings and contexts.
24 Conclusion‘Young people are as complicated as adults!’ – Jimmy (17)
25 Further reading‘Theorising Youth’, ch. 2 in Youth & Community Work in Ireland: Critical Perspectives, edited by C. Forde, E. Kiely & R. Meade (Blackhall Publishing 2009)