Coping with Autonomy: The Challenge of Adolescence.

Essay by seamybCollege, Undergraduate November 2005

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Adolescence, a relatively recent social construct is a time one's life commonly associated with change. For many people, this time between the ages of 13 and 22 signals a watershed in most people's lives where many vocational decisions are made. It is during one's adolescence that a human becomes most autonomous, making informed decisions for themselves, leaving the home to create new lives and carving out their own particular life paths. This essay will attempt to define autonomy, and also to discover how people become more autonomous during adolescence. The essay will also encounter some of the challenges that are faced during adolescence and will also try to answer why they take place at this time.

Autonomy is defined as the right to self-government. Pre-adolescence autonomy is not achieved due to attachment. Attachment refers to the close, emotional bonds of affection that develop between infants and their caregivers (Weiten, 2001).

Before a child reaches adolescence they are attached to the primary caregiver. Due to attachment the child lacks autonomy, as they are totally dependant on the primary caregiver. The mother in the infant-mother attachment often becomes a conditioned reinforcer. In the study of Harlow & Harlow(as cited in Weiten, 2001) this reinforcement theory of attachment came into question as a result of Harry and Margaret Harlow's famous studies in infant rhesus monkeys. In this study monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth and were raised by two different sets of "substitute mothers" in a laboratory. One substitute was made using cloth and the other was made using wire. Half of the babies were fed by the wire monkey and the other half were fed by the cloth monkey. Attachment was tested in this case by introducing a frightening stimulus such as a strange toy. When the toy was introduced...