The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines adolescents as individuals between 10 and 19 years of age. The broader term “youth” encompasses the 15- to 24-year old age group. Adolescence is time for many firsts. During these years the youngster may for the first time question intellectual and spiritual matters. This would be the first time when he would be developing a lifelong interest in subjects like astronomy etc. This will also be the first time he would be experiencing sexual or romantic love. This is the first time different ideas captivate the adolescent’s attention. Three distinct stages viz; early, middle and late adolescence can be identified in the psychological development of the adolescents. There is a great deal of overlap in the stages, and they may not occur during the age span indicated.

Identity Versus Identity Confusion Identity versus identity confusion is Erikson's fifth developmental stage, which individuals experience during the adolescent years. At this time individual face the task of finding out who they are, what they are all about, and where they fire going in life.  Adolescents are confronted with many new roles and adult statuses – vocational and romantic, for example.  Parents need to allow adolescents to explore such different roles and different paths within a particular role. 1 the adolescent explores such roles in a healthy manner and arrives at a positive pat to follow in life, then a positive identity will be achieved.  If an identity is pushed o the adolescent by parents, if the adolescent does not adequately explore many roles and if a positive future path is not defined, then identity confusion reigns.

During adolescence, worldviews become important to the individual, who enters what Erikson (1968) calls a "psychological moratorium,” a gap between the security of childhood and the autonomy of adulthood Adolescents experiment with the numerous roles and identities they draw from the surrounding culture. Youth who successfully cope with these convicting identities during adolescence emerge with a new sense of self that is both refreshing and acceptable (Moshtnan, 1999).  Adolescents who do not successfully resolve this identity crisis are confused, suffering what Erikson calls "identify confusion." This confusion takes one of two courses: the individuals withdraw, isolating themselves from peers and family, or they lose their identity in the crowd, we will have much more to say about identity shortly.

Adolescence- The development of self-understanding in adolescence is complex and involves a number of aspects of the self (Harter, 1998, 1999). Let's examine how the adolescent's self-understanding differs from the child's.

Abstract and Idealistic Remember - from our discussion of Piaget's theory of cognitive development in chapters 1 and 6 that many adolescents begin to think in more abstract and idealistic ways.  When asked to describe themselves, adolescents are more likely than children to use abstract and idealistic labels.  Consider 14-year-old Laurie’s description of herself.  "I am a human being.  I am indecisive.  I don't know who I am." Also consider her idealistic description of herself.  "I am a naturally sensitive person who really cares about people's feelings.  I think I'm pretty good-looking." Not all adolescents describe themselves in idealistic ways, but most adolescents distinguish between the real self and the ideal self.

Differentiated Adolescents' sell'-understanding becomes increasingly differentiated.  Adolescents are more likely than children to describe themselves with contextual or situational variations (Harter & others, 1998).  For example, 15-year-old Amy describes herself with one set of characteristics in relation to her family and another set of characteristics in relation to her peers and friends.  Yet another set of characteristics appears in self-description regarding her romantic relationship.  In sum, adolescents are more likely than children to understand that one possesses different selves, depending on one's role or particular context.

The Fluctuating Self Given the contradictory nature of the self in adolescence, it is not surprising that the self fluctuates across situations and across time (Harter, 1990).  One 15-year-old girl remarked that she could not understand how she could switch so fast-from being cheerful one moment, to being anxious the next, and then sarcastic a short time later.  One researcher described the fluctuating nature of the adolescent's self with the metaphor of "the barometric self" (Rosenberg, 1986).  The adolescent's self continues to be characterized by instability until the adolescent constructs a more unified theory of self, usually not until late adolescence or even early adulthood.
Contradictions within the Self- After adolescence ushers in the need to differentiate the self into multiple roles in different relational contexts, this naturally leads to potential Contradictions between these differentiated selves.  In one studio Susan Harter (1986) asked seventh-, ninth-, and eleventh-graders to describe themselves.  She found that the number of contradictory self-descriptions (moody and understanding, ugly and attractive, bored and inquisitive, caring and uncaring, introverted and fun-loving and so on) dramatically increased between the seventh and ninth grades.  The contradictory self-descriptions declined in the eleventh grade but still were higher than ill the seventh grade.  Adolescents develop the cognitive ability to detect these inconsistencies in the self as they strive to construct a general theory of the self or of their personality (Harter & Monosur, 1992).

Real and Ideal, True and False Selves       The adolescent's emerging ability to construct ideal selves in addition to actual ones can be perplexing to he adolescent.  The Capacity to recognize a discrepancy between real and ideal selves represents a cognitive advance, but humanistic theorist Carl Rogers (1966) believed that when the real 1 ideal Selves are too discrepant, it is a sign of maladjustment.  Depression can result a Substantial discrepancy between one's actual self and one's ideal self (the person wants to be) because an awareness of this discrepancy can produce a sense of failure and self-criticism (Hart & others, in press).

 While, as just mentioned, some theorists consider a strong discrepancy between be ideal and real selves as maladaptive, others argue that this is not always true, especially adolescence.  For example, in one view, an important aspect of the ideal or imagined self is possible selves - what individuals might become, what they would like to become, and  what they are afraid becoming (Markus & Nurius, 1986).  Thus, adolescents’ possible selves include both what adolescents hope to be as well as what they will become (Cota-Robles, Neiss, & Hunt, 2000; Martin, 1997).  In this the presence of both hoped for as well as dreaded selves is psychologically providing a balance between positive, expected selves and negative, feared The attributes of future positive selves (getting 'into a good college, being ,,red, having a successful career) can direct future positive states, while attributes future negative selves (being unemployed, being lonely, not getting into a good college) can identify what is to be avoided in the future.

Self-Integration       In adolescence, self-understanding becomes more integrative, with the disparate parts of the self more systematically  pieced together, especially in late adolescence.  Older adolescents are more likely to detect inconsistencies in their earlier self-descriptions as t attempt to construct a general theory of self, an integrated sense of identity.

Self-Awareness An important aspect of self-understanding that especially becomes important in early is self-awareness.  That is, how much is a young adult aware of his or her psychological makeup, including strengths and weaknesses? We saw that such introspection increases in adolescence and it likely continues through the early adult years many individuals do not have very good awareness of their psychological makeup and skills.
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Children increase their ability to regulate behavior in the elementary school years.  Researchers have especially found that this self-regulation increases from about -5 or 6 years of age to 7 or 8 years of (Skinner & Connell, 1986).  The increase coincides with the first several years of normal schooling and is likely due at least somewhat to the efforts of teachers to help children control their behaviour.

Researchers also have found that the elementary school years, children increase their behaviour  is a result of their own effort  and not due to  luck (Skinner, Chapman, & Baltes, 1982).  They also have found that from 8 to 14  years of age, there is an increase in perceived self-responsibility for failure outcomes  (such as not doing well on a test) (Skinner & Connell, 1986).

Few studies of self-regulation have focused on adolescents (Clark-Plaskie & Lochman, 19990.  The potential for both increases and decreases in self-control is present in adolescence.  On the one hand, advances in cognitive skills (logical thinking, for example) increased introspection, and the greater independence of adolescence might lead to increased self-control.  Also, advances in cognitive abilities provide adolescents with a better understanding of the importance of delaying gratification for something desirable (such as a good grade in a class) rather than seeking immediate gratification (listening to rock music rather than studying).  ON the other hand, the increased sense of invincibility which can lead to risk taking) and social comparison might produce less self-control.

Adolescents have been described as having, low self-esteem, dating from the time of G. Stanley Hall’s (1904) proposal that adolescence is a period pf “storm and stress." However, the majority of adolescents have a positive self-image.  In an extensive cross-cultural study, Daniel Offer and his colleagues (1988) sampled the self-images of adolescents around the world-in the United States, Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, and West Germany.  Almost three-fourths of the adolescents had a healthy self-image, contradicting the storm-at-id-stress view of adolescence.

In the third stage (age 14 through the remainder of adolescence) formal operational religious thought-adolescents revealed a more abstract, hypothetical religious understanding.  For example, one adolescent said that Moses was afraid to look at God because "God is holy and the world is sinful." Another youth responded, "The awesomeness and almightiness of God would make Moses feel like a worm comparison”.

Adolescent egocentrism is the heightened self-consciousness adolescents, which is reflected in their belief that others are as interested in them as they are themselves, and in their sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility.  David Elkind (1976) believes that adolescent egocentrism can be dissected into two types of social thinking-imaginary audience and personal fable.  The imaginary audience refers to the aspect of adolescent egocentrism that involves attention getting behavior the attempt to be noticed, visible, and "on stage."

An adolescent might think that others are as aware of a few hairs that are out of place as he is.  An adolescent girl walks into her classroom and thinks that all eyes are riveted on her complexion.  Adolescents especially sense that they are "on stage" in early adolescence, believing they are the main actors and all others are the audience.

According to Elkind, the personal fable is the part of adolescent egocentrism that involves an adolescent's sense of personal Uniqueness and invincibility. Adolescents’ sense of personal uniqueness makes them feel that no one can understand how they really feel.  For example, an adolescent girl thinks that her mother cannot possibly sense the hurt she feels because her boyfriend has broken up with her.  As part of their effort to retain a sense of personal uniqueness, adolescents might craft stories about themselves that are filled with fantasy, immersing themselves in a world that is far removed from reality.  Personal fables frequently show up in adolescent diaries.