Developmental period of adolescence is critical and inevitable to every individual human being. It is a stage that is usually marred with confounding dynamics in one’s physical, emotional, social and mental growth and identity formation. People caught into this stage are always uncertain about their true identity and would often assume other people’s traits as they may deem it fit. The case of Samantha is a typical example of a complicated nature of adolescent development which is characteristic of a conflict of numerous external influences verses intrinsic principles. The developmental changes are often chronological in formation moving from simple to more complex ones and given the magnitude of immaturity and incompetency in dealing with them, most adolescents would become overwhelmed and fall prey of the negative effects associated with the stage. The paper analyses the concepts and themes related to Samantha’s developmental period of adolescence and identity formation by integrating the systems theory and how its components impact upon her character. In addition, the paper discusses the theories that enhance the understanding of Samantha’s development and identity, an analysis of how sexuality and gender play an important role in Samantha’s development and how cultural and social values impact her development.
Concepts And Themes Related to Samantha’s Developmental Period of Adolescence and Identity Formation
Looking at Samantha’s aptitude academically, one would envisage a bright future ahead of her, full of peace and tranquility. However, this dream dimmed when she got plunged into a sexual malpractice; lesbianism, by a family friend. This form of immorality is prevalent at adolescence stage particularly in boarding schools. The ordeal inflicted ugly memories in Samantha who seemingly developed a feeling of mistrust towards friends and even family members who equally betrayed her by declining to take necessary steps against the perpetrator. At such a time, Samantha highly needed their parents most than any other time in her life.
Proper counseling could have been organized to help her recover and unwind the filthy memories from her mind by diverting her mind to more fruitful activities. Failure on the side of her parents perpetuated the mental anguish of Samantha even more, driving her to a point when she felt that she was not important to her parents anymore and she decided to quit home and got to the streets, oblivious of the predicaments that were waiting for her. It follows that the society did little to avert the tendencies of child neglect as a result of dysfunctional families as if it was the case with Samantha. No one could expect a well raised child to elude from her family and opt to live in appalling conditions such as the ones described. Furthermore, no apparent efforts were put in place by her parents to search for her.
Situations of this kind are very difficult for adolescents to battle with at the time when they would be grappling with other numerous challenges that are coupled with the stage, such as emotional crises, physical changes, sexual identity, peer pressure, education, among others. Where necessary care is not shown like in Samantha’s case, identity formation of the adolescent is adversely affected and more often than not the victim may develop a down syndrome, aggression towards others or to the authorities, and for Samantha, she took to drugs; as a way of nursing her frustration and escaping reality.
In other situations the victim will fall prey of sexual immorality in order to find pleasure and or secure their ends in life. This as described by Samantha, was the prevalent scenario on the streets where she met numerous other victims of parental neglect, drug addicts and prostitutes. She was highly vulnerable and confronted many instances when friends lured her into sexual immorality and worse still lesbianism; a malpractice that contributed to wrecking her self-esteem. In fact this was her sole reason for developing hatred for her friends, parents and even further developed negative attitude towards friends of the opposite sex to a point of denouncing heterosexual orientation to self imposed bisexual orientation, just like a plant.
The absence of realistic life goals and uncertainty of achieving a bright future led Samantha to resort to theft behavior where she engaged in shoplifting. This practice seemed to be acceptable and common among most vagrants. Their lives are literally a summary of social evil acts; if not prostitution they practice theft, drug trafficking, among others. Nevertheless, as they say that behaviors that are learnt can be unlearnt unlike those that are hereditary. Whereas some people may be affected by negative models in the society, some become well formed in similar circumstances, simply by unlearning erroneous behaviors that they would have learnt. Samantha’s case was not far from this reality. Through her firm principles she severally broke away from her influential friends for being adamant to accept their coercion into lesbianism. In fact this led to a set-up which resulted into her being stubbed in the throat as she fought back in a commotion.
Why would it be possible for an adolescent to unlearn unhealthy practices? During adolescence, real characters are never explicitly formed, as it is a stage capsulated with numerous formation dynamics. It is therefore quite difficult to determine whether one is actually bad or good by simply looking at their portrayed behavior. It is also proven that antisocial behavior is always heightened among adolescents of between sixteen to eighteen years of age, but as one crosses that line to adulthood, the rate slows down. This means that how an adolescent behaves does not necessarily determine his or her behavior during adulthood. That is why Samantha was able to realize herself, re-examined her potential and made a decision to utilize her aptitude and her right attitude to rise to her envisioned altitude.
Theories That Enhance the Understanding of Samantha’s Development and Identity
Several theories can foster the understanding of Samantha’s development and identity. Some of them are: systems theories which enhance perceptibility of individuals and their complex environment, the patterns of interactions between people, groups and institutions. The theorists denounce the attempts of explaining development by a single concept but rather by a complex system. Samantha’s development can be attributed to a number of factors including and not limited to her family background, peer pressure, school environment, the wider social circle that she was later exposed to after school, just to mention but a few. All these factors working together of successively define the resultant behavior of an adolescent.
The argument is backed by Bronfenbrenner’s in his Ecological Model. He describes various phenomenal components of the society which are largely responsible for the development and identity of an individual. The fore one is the micro-system. This component refers to activities and modes of interactions that children are involved in within their immediate surroundings. This often serves as the first teacher of the child even before they are admitted in school to be taught by second forms of teachers. For instance, apart from father playing his instrumental role as the family’s breadwinner, he is supposed to bond with his children proving the father-figure direction which other people cannot provide. The mother as well should play an affective role for her children to find refuge in her just in case they world surrounding them tends to reject or generally disfavor them.
The micro-system constitutes the greater percentage of influence to the child’s behavior. In Samantha’s case, the parental neglect had a dire negative influence to her behavior that resulted into her straying. Had her parents been serious in their parental roles, they could have no doubt contained her, neither would she have resorted to find refuge in such horrendous conditions in the streets of New Yolk. It is also possible that Samantha’s rapport with other members of her extended family was wayward given that she could find any to share her experience with. Apart from her brother, Samantha did not have anybody else that she could confine in, who could give her some pieces of advice through counseling; depicting the confining nature of the style of parenting that she had been subjected to.
Similarly, Bronfenbrenner describes the component of mesosystem which articulates on the relationships among various entities involved in child’s micro-system. They entail the interaction of parents with teachers of the schools’ interaction with Day care, among others. These entities also play a significant role in shaping the development and identity of a person. Samantha’s teacher of English demonstrates efforts of knowing and working with her students to get to know them well before she can influence them. Obviously one cannot influence a stranger since the two do not know each other. It is therefore the obligation of parents to establish cordial relationships with teachers in whose hands their children are entrusted, for they can help influence behavior from the other end.
Finally, Bronfenbrenner describes the contribution of the broader cultural, laws and governmental resources which are collectively termed as macro-system. These entities also play a significant role in development and identity of people. Culture is the custodian of morality and right customs in the society whereas the government determines the legality and illegality of certain practices as a way of enhancing harmony and peaceful coexistence among its citizens. It is evident that culture is feeble in Samantha’s case as exhibited by the rampant antisocial behavior especially among the poor vagrants. Morals are wanting and the trend is worrying given that these street families also procreate. The government’s initiatives to deal with indecent behavior through regular patrols, is tantamount to management by crisis since the damage caused on individuals’ identity is already profound. It is just like treating symptoms instead of the cause of the ailment.
On the other hand, the ecological system theory by Urie Bronfenbrenner, articulates the role of diverse systems of surroundings and interrelationships among the systems in modeling a child’s development. He attributes the development of a child to both the environment and biology as they work hand in hand.
Analysis of how sexuality and gender play an important role in Samantha’s development
Sexuality and gender are noteworthy components that define one’s personality. Any slight impairment in one’s sexual orientation can result in weird character formation, which is not conventional. Samantha’s sexual orientation was interfered with through molestation when she fell into the trap of lesbians. First it happened when she was still a student and the fact that no effort were instigated to intercept the perpetrator, perturbs her even most. It is apparent that the malpractice affected her development as she developed negative attitude of the male sex. She often describes her sexual orientation as bisexual likening herself to a mere plant.
Coincidently, she finds herself later in an environment where sexual malpractices are rampant. Apart from some ladies advocating to have lesbian relationship with Samantha, several other male vagrants were also struggling with gaysim and transgender orientation. This situation was quite perturbing as it tends to naturally classify the victims as people who have a lot in common and perhaps who share a common destiny. In the process Samantha finds herself drawn closer to Ryan; a victim of transgender who in fact disguises himself in feminine attributes to defraud non-suspecting male prostitutes by offering oral sex. This situation helped Samantha to reevaluate herself until she discovered her true identity. Her conscience never at any one moment allowed her to fall short of her morality by engaging in the malpractice.
The realization that she was actually in a wrong company helped Samantha to aspire better life since she could not rhyme with the vagrants’ mentality of wandering about the streets just to engage into sexual malpractices to fend for themselves. She discovered that her true gender was ‘female’ but not transgender nor bisexual as she had earlier purported. This understanding revitalized Samantha’s synergy that prompted her to look for employment as a way to reconstruct her life. Amazingly, at one moment she had thought about her parents and even prepared a greetings card only the she hesitated to send to the. This was a sign that she was undergoing inner healing from her past ordeals. She had definitely forgiven herself that is why she could easily think about reconnecting with her parents whom she earlier described in unfriendly terms.
How Cultural and Social Values Impact Samantha’s Development
Culture and social values play a crucial role in adolescents’ development. As mentioned earlier, culture is the custodian of morals which determine social values. When the culture of a place is inclined in immorality, theft, drug addiction and alike, then adolescent will the most affected. This is so considering the fact that the immaturity of these individuals deprives them the mental capability to make rational decisions. In other words they will find themselves deep into these unhealthy practices without a second thought about the long-term consequences.
In the case of Samantha, it is observed that though she was prone to all manner of erroneous influences right from her own family, her capacity to cope with them was greatly compromised by her will power and self inclination to moral justice. This is similar to the analogy of a child who lives with a drunkard father being strengthened by the vice to develop uprightness while another one in similar circumstance may be destroyed. The difference lies in the inner principles that the two children may believe in concerning drunkenness but not the prevailing situations. People are therefore not supposed to go astray simply on account of the prevailing cultural and social values but rather on account personal beliefs and the principle of self direction.
What the cultural and social values may exert on an individual is the pressure that suppresses the individual’s resistance to life stress, oppression, and mental capability to make rational decisions based on the extent of the consequences to his/her own life and the lives of those around. Where the victim seems to be relenting in his/her effort to overcome these dissenting factors, the obvious outcome is always being influenced and following suit in common behaviors displayed by people.
Samantha happened to rescue herself from this hook and decided to stand on her own regardless of the attitude of the multitude. In fact for her the negativity in the cultural and social values turned out to strengthen her more by instilling in her the strong sense of awareness to moral uprightness and the will power to make a positive impact to the same ailing culture. Though she remained uncertain about her religious responsibilities, the behavior she portrayed shortly before and after securing a job, denoted a complete turnaround from the unhealthy social practices. Therefore, it should be strongly believed that no matter the prevailing cultural and social values, the ultimate decision to emulate bad behavior is purely individual but not externally motivated, as many would attribute it to be. External conditions are only but stimuli which cannot fully determine or justify people’s actions as a result of their influence.
The period of adolescence is very sensitive even though quite essential and through which every individual is entitled to pass. Middle aged teenagers grapple with numerous physical, emotional and social developmental changes as they grow into adulthood. It is also the time when most of the adolescents would be struggling with the most fundamental section of their studies; high school. There is a very high likelihood that the concerns of such high magnitude can generate an overwhelming situation, which is characterized by perplexity in their manner of behavior as it has been observed in Samantha’s case. Therefore, judging them on the basis of observable behavior in this stage of adolescence and to categorize them according to personalities is quite iniquitous. This is because their true identities would have not yet fully developed as their ultimate characters and personalities would still be in incubation. If all people can endeavor to understand, acknowledge and journey with adolescents through their iniquities, which are motivated by the earlier mentioned situations, the stage of adolescence will cease being undulating and free from extreme antisocial behaviors. The society at large should shun being judgmental to adolescents instead devise appropriate mechanisms to eliminate negative influences which tend to weigh down adolescents capability to refuse to give in to. The essay has expressly outlined the concepts and themes that characterized Samantha’s dynamic adolescent life and how she managed to salvage herself and unexpectedly formed an impeccable identity. It should be acknowledged that though Samantha’s case may an isolated one, it nullifies the stereotypical perception and judgment of adolescents by the general public. With or without negative influence in the environment within which one lives, the ultimate character of an individual shall always be formed basing on an individual’s superego. Otherwise there would be similar behavior displayed across any given society if external influence was sufficient in development of once identity.