Hard wired for risk: neurological science, ‘the adolescent brain’ and developmental theory
ABSTRACT This article considers claims now being made about ‘the adolescent brain’. It points out why some of those claims are problematic for methodological, social and philosophical reasons. Attention is given to how some ‘youth experts’ and others have used this research by relying on and reinforcing prejudicial stereotypes about young people as intrinsically problematic. Questions are asked about history and what that teaches us about such claims and what the implications are of uncritically accepting this latest ‘discovery’ in terms of rights and responsibilities. One response of those wedded to the adolescent brain model is to increase the age at which young people can engage in a number of activities. I argue that if we deny young people responsibility and opportunities to build a repertoire of experiences and to learn how events connect to emotions, then we are denying them the chance to develop their capacity for good judgment. The response proposed in this article rests on a different proposition that some young people are sometimes at risk not because their brains are different, but because they have not had the experience or opportunity to develop the skills and judgment that engagement in those activities and experiences supply.
- SourceAvailable from: Judith Bessant
- "We refer to the attached article for further detail on why this approach is problematic (Bessant, 2008, pp. 347-360). "
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ABSTRACT: Wilhelm Wundt's establishment of the first experimental laboratory in 1879 is often cited as a chronological marker of the emergence of psychology as a new discipline. Although Wundt vigorously supported maintenance of links with the 'social' sciences, the desire to secure a distinctive contribution to the study of human behaviour would promote psychology's allegiance to the natural science paradigm of systematic and objective measurement, and generally discourage researchers from exploring the potential benefits of a multidisciplinary perspective on developmental issues. My objective in this paper is to interrogate possible consequences of ongoing scientism within developmental psychology as it contributes to the contemporary storying of adolescence to affect not only the positioning of young people within society but also the theorising of (im)maturity across the entire lifespan. Somewhat ironically, but perhaps inevitably, this involves engagement with the conceptual legacy of Erik Erikson--one of the very few writers of influence within mainstream developmental psychology both avowedly multidisciplinary and staunchly nonempiricist. Thus I choose to problematize the enduring influence of his theorizing on adolescence, partly through utilizing his notion of 'cogwheeling of the generations'--which invites examination of how the discursive construction of adolescence may be seen as influenced by, and as having an influence on, the psychological nature of all other lifespan stages. Erikson had offered mid-twentieth century Western society a view of adolescence focused on the developmental task of 'identity achievement'. 1 He proposed the second decade of life should ideally be a moratorium or time out from 'adult' responsibilities of marriage, childbearing and economic contribution to allow the psychological exploration required to replace the 'conferred' self of childhood with a 'constructed' identity to carry forward into adulthood. Although this ideal was soon attacked as having Eurocentric, androcentric and classist limitations, 2,3 it was in many respects right for the times. James Marcia and other enthusiastic researchers would subsequently provide empirical support lacking in Erikson's own writing, and arguably succeed in gaining acceptance for identity
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ABSTRACT: All children face risks in their everyday lives, although some experience more than others. Age, gender, geography and relative disadvantage are among the factors making a difference. Assessing and managing these risks has generated enormous academic interest, political activity, public debate, and emotion, but a major tension has arisen. This is between the actuarial models of risk assessment widely advocated and imposed by agencies including the government, even if prompted by individual instance and public outrage, and experiential models of risk assessment commonly adopted by children and their families. This gives rise to the issue of whether children should be protected at all cost because of the risk from both visible and hidden dangers, or whether they should be exposed to challenge and adventure to allow them to learn to assess and manage risk for themselves. It is unclear whether or not the world is a safer place for children than in the past, and it is apparent that risks constantly change. The challenge is to ensure that young people remain safe while at the same time gaining opportunities to experience excitement and develop their independence.Sociology Compass 08/2009; 3(5):824 - 835. DOI:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00238.x