One of the things that was most interesting to me to read was that adolescence has not always existed as a separate category. During most of human history, children have undergone rites of passage or initiation that made them full-fledged adults in their society, rather than part-children, part-adults, like contemporary adolescents, or teen-agers have become.
In the last two centuries, however, adolescence has become a separate category and psychologists and sociologists have attempted to understand the characteristics and developmental contribution of that age. Adolescence is generally considered to start with puberty, about age 12 or 13 and may extend into the 20s. For the most part, however, adolescence is thought of as meaning the teen-age years, or the years until age 21.
Many writers since Freud have created developmental schemes or stage theories in which adolescence plays a particular role. As Carol Gilligan noted, most of these theories have been created by looking at male adolescents, this may mean that they are not as applicable to female adolescents, if they are valid at all. The intent in the following pages is to look at a few views of adolescence through a feminist lens in order to explore their appropriateness and usefulness for contemporary thinkers.
One of the most famous of the stage theorists is Erik Erikson. It is his model that offered the fullest look at human development from birth to death. Most of the stage theorists, such as Piaget, considered that development was primarily completed by adolescence or early adulthood. It is only since Erikson that stage theorists have extended their work into adulthood and found additional developmental stages, or phases, during adult life (Hunt, 1993).
Erikson's model included eight separate stages, each of them focusing on a basic conflict or task that the individual needed to complete. The first stage of infancy presented the conflict between basic ...