Adolescence – Socio Emotional Development


Identity is a construction of self and social relations that is comprise of commitments to who one is and what and how one lives one's life.
It includes: career or work path, political identity, religious identity, sexual identity, cultural/ethnic identity, aspects of personality and one's physical identity.


The PsychoSocial nature of being human was central to Erikson's work where he identified mutuality as a way to describe the ways in which we "inter-live" and our life cycles are "cogwheeling" each other's movement through the lifecycle.

Adolescence is marked by the crisis or challenge of finding fidelity or commitment to one's identity and some movement towards the establishing of intimacy and love.  

Identity vs. Diffusion (Role Confusion) is the prime dialectic where young people have the opportunity to make a committment to one or another identity option, but often as the case may be, this is a time of exploration and sometimes confusion over such posibilities.

When one has worked through these issues and come to a coherent sense of self and ego identity Fidelity is the ego strength or virtue that emerges. Fidelty can then allow someone to move on to establish commitment to others by forming intimacy rather than remaining isolated and alone.

  James Marcia's -Ego Identity Achievement model

Marcia (1966) built his framework on Eriksons, focussing on the dimensions of exploration and commitment to identity alternatives

Four possibilities arise:















 Marcia's Ego-Identity Status Interview is a tool for assessing one's identity status (style) according to the above framework. This operates across various domains, such as occupation, religion, gender roles, politics, and sexual relations.

More recently Tonks (1998) has extended this to the domain of ethnicity and culture, specifically for immigrant youth .

Erikson also openly admits that often during the period of searching and exploration called moratorium, youth will take on a "negative identity" one counter tho that of their parents as they exp[lore possible forms of identity. Commonly however, in time their sense of ideanty comes to include many aspects of the parental identity they once rejected.



Parental management and monitoring emerges during this time from which the psycho-social dynamics of youth identity formation occur. Parents can make use of various style of parenting (See Baumrind's styles) but often also make use of one or more methods of monitoring.

Three methods of monitoring are:

Solicitation which invovles asking questions of the youth and maintaing the lines of communication, this tends to go along with the authoritative style of parenting.

Control invovles enforcement of disclosure rules, taking more control over the youth disclose information

Snooping is a strategy that tends emerges when youth don’t comply with solicitation or control and the parent attempts to acquire information through monitoring electronic communications and social media, or possibly follow the youth in real life social situations.

These last two styles of monitoring tend to align with a more authoritarian style of parenting.


Peer relations undergo transformations during adolescence, including changes in friendships and peer groups, as well as the beginning of romantic relationships.

By about grade 8 or 9, conformity to peers becomes a dominate trend in social relations and seems to peak in early adolescence.

Teenagers often prefer a smaller number of friendships that are more intense and intimate than those of children where their basic social needs: tenderness (secure attachment), playful companionship, social acceptance, intimacy, and sexual relations can be developed to influence identity and emotional well-being

Cliques  are small social groups (2 - 12) individuals where members are usually of the same gender and about the same age

Crowds  are larger than cliques and less personal, commonly based on reputation and tend to be transient 

In the movement from isolation to intimacy and the eventual development of love as an ego virtue there are various stages of development of romantic relationships in adolescence (Connolly & McIsaac, 2009):

1. Ages 11 to 13 are when  youth are entering romantic attractions and affiliations triggered by puberty

2. Ages 14 to 16 is when adolescents begin to explore romantic relationships by:

Casual dating  happens between individuals who are mutually attracted
Dating in groups  come to reflect the importance of peers in adolescents’ lives

3. Ages 17 to 19 is when dyadic romantic bonds emerge amd more serious relationships develop. There tend to be strong emotional bonds often more stable and enduring than earlier bonds lasting 1 year or more.

Culture and Adolescent development

Ethnicity and ethinic identity emerge along side identity in a more general sense. In multicultural societies, like Canada, there commonly are people from many different ethnic or cultural traditions living within a given community. For many youth the establishment of their ethinic identity may become a more complex problem than for other as they have to juggle multiple cultural traditions and values that are sometimes at odds with each other.

This is seen in the trajectories of identity development among immigrant youth and international students as reported by Tonks, Shah & Lowe (2021).

Berry's Scheme of Acculturative Attitude Styles (Berry, 1997)

Is it considered to be of value to maintain
cultural identity and characteristics?




Is it considered
to be of value to maintain




relationships with
other (host) groups





Integrative approach suggests the synthesis of various facets  of identity that one finds in each of the two (or more) traditions,  often into a novel style of living through these traditions.

is most desired by the "multicultural assumption" of maintenance and
contact leading to a positive identity and tolerance of others (Berry 1984, 1997)

Separation occurs when there is a group that is in an inferior position
of power desires to maintain traditions and not have contact.

In contrast Segregation occurs when the group's relative dominance
(in terms of social and economic systems) is that of a superior position.

Essentially involves the maintenance of traditional cultural behavioural patterns, values and identities without the acceptance of the behaviours, values or identities of others.

Assimilation occurs when there is a desire to adopt the 'host' traditions and practices while relinquishing one's own.

Assimilation refers to the classic "melting-pot" outcome of acculturation whereby groups and individuals forego  the maintenance of their traditional ethno-cultural heritages and take on the cultural ways of the host society.

Official Canadian policy prior to the 1971 introduction of the Policy on Multiculturalism, and it continues to be the  'Official Policy' of the United States.


"is difficult to define precisely, possibly because it is  accompanied by a good deal of collective and individual confusion and anxiety.

It is characterised by striking out  against the larger society and by feelings of alienation,  loss of identity, and what has been termed acculturative stress." (1989, p. 4, emphasis original)

Early work on "multicultural ideology" shows "Deculturation", as a style that appears largely to be equivalent to Marginalisation (Berry, Kalin & Taylor, 1977).

Deculturation was defined by Berry (1984) as a pattern that  "occurs when a group's culture is not maintained and when there is no participation in the affairs of the dominant group" (p. 357).

Tonks (1990) suggests that a similar strategy may be present involving a loss of concern with ethnicity and culture per se, where Deculturation can be also be differentiated from Marginalisation
as a style that does not involve an element of "acculturative stress".

This study revealed a positive correlation with  Assimilation (r = .364), Marginalisation (r = .324), and
a negative correlation with Integration (r = -.277) and Separation (r = - .143) 
this attitude accompanies individuals who "opt-out" from having any traditional cultural ties
with associated practices and beliefs while not falling prey to an "acute crisis" characterised by stress.

Acculturation, Adaptation and Acculturative Stress

Acculturative Stress has been characterised as: one form of stress that is due to challenges in the process of acculturation. It has been observed as: "a particular set of stress behaviours . . . lowered mental health status (especially anxiety, depression), feelings of marginality and alienation, heightened psychosomatic symptom level, and identity confusion." (Berry et al., 1992, p. 284).

Acculturative Stress has been related to acculturative attitudes, phases of acculturation, nature of the larger society, characteristics of the acculturating group and individual.

Relationships between acculturation and stress[ Figure 11-4 ]

Mode: Integration, Assimilation, Separation, Marginalisation

Acculturative strategies have been examined along with:
acculturative stress, passive and active coping, psychopathology, age of beginning of acculturation, gender, education, and place  in the economic world (Berry, Kim, Power, Young & Bujaki, 1989; Berry, 1997).

Integration almost universally demonstrates a "substantial relationship with positive adaptation" (1997, p. 24). . . and . . . "integration seems to be the most effective strategy if we take long term health and well-being as indicators"  (Schmitz cited in Berry, 1997, p. 25).

" Social support" or having "supportive relationship with both cultures" and "links to one's heritage are associated with lower stress." (Berry, 1997, p. 25).

Higher levels of education have also been associated with lower levels of stress (Berry, 1997).

However, departure status is often higher than entry status which means the professionals often cannot work in their field following migration and have to either retrain or take on a lower status job (Berry, 2006).

Phinney, Chavira, and Williamson (1992) have reported that Integration was positively correlated with self-esteem in all groups (Hispanics, Blacks and Asians), while Assimilation correlated negatively with self-esteem in all groups except for whites.

Marginalisation consistently is found to be least successful in positive adaptation (Berry, 1997; Sam & Berry, 1996). The Marginalised person or community is shut off or cut out of both traditions, having few or no connections for the development of positive social support and recognition.

Phase: Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Adaptation   (including behavioural change) Fig 11-3 also gives rise to the U and W models of adjustment.

Nature of Larger Society: Multicultural vs. Assimilationist, ...

Group Characteristics : Age, Status, Social Support, Institutions

Individual Characteristics : Appraisal, Coping, Attitudes (Locus of Control), Contact...

Appraisal of the acculturative experience will have an impact on experiences along with coping methods which can affect ones attitudes, behaviour and experience.

Primary Appraisals are those cognitions that determine whether a stimulus is irrelevant, benign-positive or stressful. This appraisal may determine that the stimulus is of no concern of that it is a challenge or a threat that is likely to lead to harm or loss.  

Secondary appraisals involve one's evaluation of one's ability to cope or respond to the stressor. This may involve consideration of options and possible outcomes, a sense of efficacy and skill, as well as one's ability to control or manipulate a situation. 

Reappraisals involve the re-evaluation of primary or secondary appraisals where similar or different result may arise.  Defensive reappraisal may arise when one alters a previous appraisal as less threatening or more positive. 

Coping can be active or passive and can be emotion focused or problem focused.

Problem-Focused coping involves the redefinition of a situation or alternatives.  This may be proactive, targeting the stressor and attempting to eliminate it before it has an impact. It may also involve combative coping where the adjustment is made to reduce the stressor or its effects after it has had an impact. 

Emotion-Focused coping involves an attempt to reduce emotional distress through controlling the event or reinterpreting the meaning of the stressor.


Acculturative Stress has also been studied extensively for many different groups

Sedentary or Migrant

Nomadic peoples who are forced into acculturation and settlement are most strongly affected  [ Figure 12-1 kinds of groups in plural societies]

Voluntariness of Contact and Acculturative Stress

voluntary people (immigrants, sojourners and ethnic groups) are less likely to be stressed than involuntary people (natives and refugees).

Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok (1987) report results from numerous studies on acculturative stress.

Many other studies have since been performed using variations on the Berry Scale as well as the Cawte stress indicator (which is a short form derived from the Cornell medical Index).

Tonks has developed a bio-psycho-social health index to examine stress and positive adjustment in this study with international students ( Wu, Tonks &Sorokina, 2014 ) BPSHr2 Sorokina, Tonks &Puzanov (2016)


A huge growth in social media nd the use of cell phone has transformed our society and as pointed out by Tonks (2021) has had an impact on our sense of self.

Adolescent Problems

Risk taking

Sensation-seeking invovles a desire to experience novelty and reward and excitement and usually involves risk taking.

Risk-taking behaviours more prevalent among adolescents than any other time of life and is associated with higher mortality rates during this life stage. This trend is nearly universal and is tied to brain development ( or lack of it) in the prefrontal cortext where consequences and anticipation of outcome occurs along with execuative control and inhibition of other parts of the brain. The presence of peers and pressure for conformity increases the likelihood of risky decisions



Bullying invovles the repeated use of strength to intimidate or coerce another person whether in person or online.

Bullies tend to uses physical strength, social popularity, or access to embarrassing information to control or harm others through physical or verbal attacks, spreading rumours or excluding someone from social interactions.

Anxious or socially withdrawn children and youth tend to victimized and are unlikely to retaliate, often are selected by bullies for that reason.

Depression and Suicide


Bullying and other forms of social juedgement and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) may also lead youth into experiences of depression

Adolescent girls tend to have higher rates of depression, as with women adults as they tend also to: internalize emotions; ruminate and amplify the sources of depression and are more liekly to be socially judged by their bodies and appaerance than are their male counterparts.

Girls and women also experience discrimination and harassment and it has been shown that social media (in particular Instagram) is highly detrimental to young women's mental health.


Suicide is rare childhood but become more prevalent during adolescence and increases into emerging adulthood

It is the second-leading cause of death in 10 to 19 year-olds today in Canada where girls try more frequently and boys are more successful.

Other forms of self harm are also on the rise, including cutting and burning.