Do High Schools Further Adolescent Development?
Many psychologists have written and discussed various theories of adolescent development and their relation to adjustment in adulthood. For the purposes of this paper, the discussion will be centered on the ideas of Piaget, Erikson, Anna Freud, and Sigmund Freud and whether American high schools enhance the adolescent's efforts in psychosexual development, identity formation, and cognitive development.
Piaget is widely known for his work in the area of cognitive development of young children. However, in relation to the theories of the psychology of adolescence, many of his concepts are helpful. According to Piaget, the period of propositional operations appears between the ages of eleven and fifteen. At this stage of intellectual sophistication, ideally the young person is able to apply operations to operations and transformations to transformations, building on the lesser complex mental capabilities of the earlier stages of maturity (Chandler, p. 99).
Piaget emphasizes that the stages must always appear in order, and that one cannot expect a child or youth to perform tasks when they have not mastered the skills of the previous levels of cognitive development. Movement through the stages presupposes the availability of materials and activities which enhance the more sophisticated intellectual grasp, and if the adolescent is deprived, cognitive progress will be slower.
According to Piaget, the mastery of sophisticated language capability is part of the important growth of the adolescent time period. It is difficult to perform and comprehend complex mental tasks without the ability to express those mental functions in words (Chandler, p. 98). In the mastery of the stage of formal operations, the person becomes able to envision the current reality as only one aspect of all possibilities. Possibility moves into the foreground of thinking, and reality shifts to the back...