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Late adolescence and the transition to adulthood; changes, new thinking and implications for mental health and psychotherapy Stephen Briggs.

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Presentation on theme: "Late adolescence and the transition to adulthood; changes, new thinking and implications for mental health and psychotherapy Stephen Briggs."— Presentation transcript:

1 Late adolescence and the transition to adulthood; changes, new thinking and implications for mental health and psychotherapy Stephen Briggs

2 Discourses of late adolescence  a. the transition to adulthood is getting longer, more complex, pluralised and uncertain  b. the transition is more ‘individualised’ and more open to ‘risks’ and hazards as well as opportunities; it is no longer prescribed  c. adolescents are getting ‘worse’; less well behaved, more anti social and having greater mental health problems

3 Discourse 1 Transitions are getting longer …….and more uncertain

4 biological (mature reproductive capacity) and The Mismatch of biological (mature reproductive capacity) and psychological transitions (‘adult roles’)

5 The transition to adulthood is getting longer…. How was it then? e.g. Derek Miller (1969) ‘Adolescents in a disturbed society’: Early, middle, late adolescence Preparing for adulthood at 18/19 Adolescence as ‘the age between’ : a transient state Erikson: ‘identity’ as a ‘solid’ and enduring outcome from adolescent ‘moratorium’ ; leads to commitments for life (role confusion as a failure to develop an identity, rather than a realistic response to society)

6 And Now? …..adolescence begins with puberty and completes with ‘highly variable social transitions’ which are no longer prescribed (Patton and Viner 2007) The transition to adulthood involves crossing (and re- crossing) a series of boundaries; seen as a series of parallel transitions Massive changes in social contexts of work and education patterns affect timings of transitions: o Leaving school o Starting work o Living away from parental home o Setting up an independent home o Beginning a family

7 Ferri, Bynner, Wadsworth (2003) Three national British birth cohort studies –National Survey of Health and Development (1946 birth cohort), National Child Development Study (1958 birth cohort) and the 1970 British Cohort study (1970 birth cohort).

8 Transitions getting longer…. Age at first child: men Age

9 Age at first child: women Age

10 Age at marriage Men Women

11 Education: rising involvement; staying later Tertiary education qualifications Birth Year Men Women193946

12 Record numbers stay in education A record number of school children stayed in full-time education in England after their GCSEs last year. Some 78.1% of 16-year-olds remained in education beyond the compulsory age - up 2.2 percentage points on Some 65% of 17-year-olds were in full time education in also a rise of 2.2 percentage points on The share of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (Neets) fell from 10.9% to 10.3% in leaving about 206,000 Neets (BBC – June 20 th 2006)

13 UK compared with others: 1990 ( * 2006 – FULL Time education) Participation in education and/or training (% age group): Labour Force Survey UK 77(78* ) 60 (65*) 34 Germ any Franc e Portu gal

14 Longer transitions…and more individualised The ‘myth’ of the orderly transition: ‘The predictable family-based patterns of entry into the labour market in the 1946 cohort give way to the more individualised transitions of the later cohorts relying more heavily on personal resources’. (Ferri et al 2003) Compare transitions in other societies: e.g. Lesotho (Ansell 2004) Traditional transitions: patterns fixed, universal, no significant risk of ‘failure’ Greater choice, flexibility introduced with secondary education: transitions become postponed

15 No change at the top: persistence of class differences in education. Women in higher education by social class Birth Year Father in Social Class 1 63%70% Father in Social Class 5 12%12%

16 Inequalities increasing: Fast track and slow track transitions (G.Jones) 2006) Slow Track  Staying on in education (until 30 or later)  Many semi-independent statuses requiring parental support  Problematic for those without middle class models of parental support  Can result in ‘broken’ or ‘fractured’ transitions  Mental health issues arise  Acquiring social capital Fast Track  Leaving education on or before min. age  Risks of unemployment, poor wages  NEET  Early family formation  Higher anti-social behaviour rates  Social exclusion  (Early achievement of adulthood more likely to mean premature loss of childhood)  Lack of social capital

17 Social Capital High Low Extended transition To adulthood Accelerated transition to adulthood

18 Discourse 2 Transitions have become individualised: the impact on identity

19 Identity in the ‘risk society’  Concept of ‘risk society’ generated by Ulrich Beck (1992) and Giddens (1990, 1991)  ‘The individual becomes the reproduction unit for the social’…when structures and solidarities have broken down (Beck 1992)  ‘Calculative’ approach to self reflexive biography making in ‘risk societies’ E.g. Giddens: Living in the ‘risk society means living with a calculative attitude to the open possibilities of action, positive and negative, with which, as individuals and globally, we are confronted in a continuous way in our contemporary social existence’ (1991: 28) E.g. Giddens: Living in the ‘risk society means living with a calculative attitude to the open possibilities of action, positive and negative, with which, as individuals and globally, we are confronted in a continuous way in our contemporary social existence’ (1991: 28)

20 Get with it…  Recent applications of individualisation to young people e.g. Thomas Johannsson 2007 Identity characterised by fluidity, openness, multiple identifications, reflexivity, ‘continuous project of the self’ Identity characterised by fluidity, openness, multiple identifications, reflexivity, ‘continuous project of the self’ Get with the new opportunities (information, cyberspace) or be marginalised Get with the new opportunities (information, cyberspace) or be marginalised ‘What’s in it for me?’ as basis for decision making ‘What’s in it for me?’ as basis for decision making

21 A new phase: emerging adulthood? Jeffrey Arnett (2000) –USA – young people in their twenties are on the ‘threshold’ of adulthood Survey data: ‘What does it mean to make the transition to adulthood?’: answered in process terms (i.e. out of synch with structures/ ritualised transitions to adulthood): Accepting responsibility for oneself Accepting responsibility for oneself Making independent decisions Making independent decisions Becoming financially independent Becoming financially independent Standing alone as a self sufficient person Standing alone as a self sufficient person developing greater concern for others developing greater concern for others avoiding behaviour that might harm others. avoiding behaviour that might harm others.

22 Paradoxes of individualisation in the extended transition to adulthood  Individualised transitions are more open to risks, especially the risk of failure: risks are unevenly distributed in society  Education becomes a significant marker for success, widening choices and horizons –and possibilities for failure  Illusion of control: ‘epistemological fantasy’ (Furlong and Cartmel 1997). Particularly relevant to post-education young people. (train versus car journey): what are the limits of ‘agency’?  Loss of responsibility and autonomy: increased dependence on parental support, especially financial; dependence and independence interact in new and varied combinations (Thomson 2004)  Increased vulnerability to mental ill health: impact of uncertainty, variability of supports, impact of ‘broken structures’, e,g, families, communities

23 Psychosocial accounts of ‘agency’ in risk societies: detailing the theory  Walkerdine et al: ‘Growing Up Girl’; Thomson et al (2004) ‘Inventing adulthoods’: biographical case studies  ‘Conscious and unconscious strategies’: short- term (coping), longer term  Young people show oscillation between different ‘biographies’ of self, affected by success/failure  Turning points/critical moments in identity making…  Stagnant/damaged or progressive/repairing transitions influence identities (Bynner 2005)  Relational (‘you’ve got to think of someone else now’) as well as individualistic transitions  Being ‘subject to’ or ‘subject of’ risks (internal, interpersonal and social).

24 Access to social, cultural, emotional, financial resources (capital) Degree and type of investment in types of adult identity Agency Investment  Recognition competency Model of identity making: from Thomson et al 2004

25 A potential split: Relational and individualistic aspects of identity  Relational ideas about adulthood  ‘You have to think about someone else now’ (Thomson 2004)  Arnett’s respondents  Individualistic ideas about adulthood  ‘What’s in it for me?’ (Johannsson 2007)  Reinventing biographies  Continuous project of self

26 Discourse 3: Are Adolescents getting worse?

27 Are adolescents getting worse?  Thesis of the deterioration of adolescent mental health is media-led and constitutes a moral panic (Cohen 1973, 1980, 2002)  Evidence of research: Collishaw et al 2004  And Inquiries, e.g. ‘truth hurts’ (Camelot Foundation)  Thus adolescents are at risk of a range of psychosocial disorders: substance abuse, self- harm and suicide, violence, depression, eating disorders, obesity  Plus teenage pregnancy, AIDS etc

28 ‘Evidence is mixed for whether rates of mental disorder have increased during the past decades’ (Patel et al 2007) Poverty and social disadvantage are strongly associated with mental disorder 85% teenagers agree with the statement ‘I’m happy with family life’ (Future Foundation Survey 2002) Increased rates of suicide In adolescence in China and India correlate with rapid social change ‘We wish to emphasise that most young people do not have any mental disorder – even most of those who face severe adversities’ (Patel et al 2007)

29 Folk devils and moral panics Moral panics are media driven: o Set the agenda o Transmit the images o Break the silence/make the claim ‘a permanent moral panic resting on a seamless web of social anxieties’ (2002: xxix) Risks and moral panics are naturally connected - failure of risk factor model (being in a low risk category for a disease you are actually suffering) Allocation of blame is intrinsic to moral panic Distorts: taking some things too seriously, some not seriously enough

30 Folk Devils Mods and rockers, punks, skinheads, football hooligans, muggers, mobsile phone snatchers, ecstasy, other drug takers, Amy Winehouse, child abusers, welfare cheats, single mothers, refugees and asylum seekers, Young, working class, violent males An ‘underclass’ of depressed young women

31 Wanted: CCTV images of three of the train gang Students beaten by train steamers Rob Singh, Crime Reporter ES Folk Devil: The ‘violent avenger’ (Stuart Hall 1988)

32 The current crisis of adult- adolescent relatedness: to intervene, or let time ‘cure’ splitting ‘risks’ from ‘growth’ Risks  Are harbingers of future long- standing problems and intervention is necessary to reduce or remove risks  Are threats to life, security and the welfare of professionals  Projected fear of adolescent emotionality in the discourse about worsening adolescent mental health Growth  Recognising that, perhaps with help, within the adolescent there is the potential for development  Interventions aim to facilitate growth, enabling the adolescent to engage with the adolescent process  Projected denial of risks, and the oppressive social situations of some adolescents

33 The crisis of adult-adolescent relatedness: buying into the risk culture in risk societies  Adults  …fear adolescent sexuality and violence  …forget their own adolescence (Jacobs 2000)  …buy into risk assessments in ‘risk societies’: mixing categories by ‘counting risks’  ….are rivalrous: “the constant stories of teenage violence and teenage sexuality and the reactions of outraged protest…

34 ....force upon one the realization that prominent sections of the adolescent population and the adult population alike are engaged in the warlike activity of …. ….acting out their Oedipal rivalry

35 Implications for service delivery  ‘Many countries fail to put sufficient emphasis on the special needs of adolescents….they are either treated the same as children or share facilities with adults…’ (Kleinert 2007)  Multidisciplinary services need to be configured to fit with the period of late adolescence/ emerging adulthood i.e. 14/16-25/30. The cut off for adult services at 18 is illogical and damaging  Services need to be responsive to the range and characteristics of transitions, and thus sensitive to the perspectives of young people  Beyond risk assessment: integrating risks and growth

36 Implications for psychotherapy  Need for focus on ‘working with transitions’; internal impact of social contexts  Recognition of repeated and partial transitions – not expecting a traditional ‘all at once’ move into adulthood  Recognition that ‘fast track’ transitions are a recipe for future problems not evidence of maturing  Need for structure and time limits (for therapy) to enable management of an extended (and piecemeal) transition  Recognition and response to parallel transitions to adulthood: looking at the quality of transitions  Focusing on positioning as ‘more adult’ (with gains and costs) in specific domains (work, relationships, politics, parenting, studying)  Focus on plurality, ‘hyphenating’, fluidity of movement between subject positions


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