Why is a passage to adolescents regarded in many cultures as such a significant transition that it calls for unique ceremonies?


Why is a passage to adolescents regarded in many cultures as such a significant transition that it calls for unique ceremonies?

Adolescence is a stage in human development that starts at puberty from the age of 12 or 13 years and ends at the age between 22 to 25 years. It is one of the most significant stages in human development as it involves the transition from childhood to adulthood. The transition is in the form of physical changes, neurodevelopmental changes (brain development) and psychological and social changes. Many cultures all over the world recognize this transition stage and celebrate it differently. According to Lertzman (2002), humans mark life transition through ceremonies, rituals, trials and celebration. This is the case for the passage to adolescents. During the passage to adolescents, the individual is no longer a child. The adolescent is entering a new stage where he/she is expected to make own decisions. An essence of these ceremonies is that the initiates are recognized and supported by the community, which creates a roadmap for self-development. Effective and proper rites of passage prevent people from becoming disoriented and losing their way in the journey of life.

Good and effective rites of passage are of great significance to the individual development and in ensuring the transmission of culture across generations. According to Meade (1996), initiation creates a spiritual experience upon the initiates, which helps them experience the ancestral bonds and in recognizing the origins of their community. Generally, rites of passage to adolescent entails holding of a ceremony, which is an important aspect to the process of initiation for the individual and of significance to the continuation of culture. The rite of passage is of mutual benefit to both the individual and the community as the individual acquires good traits to assist them in life situations and the community undergoes transformation and regeneration as through initiation new members take their next respectful places in the community. It also helps in enabling the individual to accept and find meaning in life. It helps individuals in becoming self-reliant, gives them courage, and increases their perseverance.

Rites of passages fully confer a change from one stage in human development to another. A change in physical structure may fail to show a change from one stage of human development to another (Scott, Stephen, & Blumenkrantz, 2007). In this case, rites of passage such as initiation are incorporated to fully represent the change. The initiates must be willing to undergo the right of passage, which either involves a trial or ordeal. An initiate should therefore undergo inner transformation and obtain recognition from his or her community. The rites of passage can also be used to dramatize life events from one role, obligation or social status to another as the individual self-perception changes as well as how the society views him or her.

Briefly explain how an adolescents thinking is different than that of younger children

An adolescent thinking capability is high due to the increased cognitive growth. Their thinking is therefore at a high level in comparison to that of a younger child. The following are the various ways in which their thinking patterns differ.

Adolescents can engage in hypothetical deductive reasoning which is not the case for younger children (Anderson, Gerrish, Layton, Morgan, Tilstone, & Willliams, 2013). The adolescents become more logical and scientific in facing problems. They consider a situation and the various factors or variables affecting them. They evaluate the different ways these variables may affect their life. Younger children, on the other hand, tend to be illogical in facing their problems since their brains are still developing.

Adolescents are able to make observations and interpret them in a better way compared with younger children (Anderson et al., 2013). Their observational skills have greatly improved. This may involve observing people’s comments, expressions, behaviors and coming up with their interpretation. In most cases, younger children make minimal observations since their observations skills have not fully developed. In some situations, they are able to make observations but they cannot interpret them.

Adolescents engage in relativistic thinking whereas younger children do not. Relativistic thinking entails critically reflecting on different perspectives and developing the best solution or answer. Adolescents question other people’s beliefs and do not accept the information given unto them to be absolute truth. Younger children accept all they told by adults to be true and are less likely or never question what others tell them.

Adolescents engage in cognitive affective complexity whereas young children do not. Cognitive affective complexity refers to development of a complex thinking process in adolescents. This thinking process enables adolescents to become aware of positive as well as negative feelings and thoughts (Anderson et al., 2013). By becoming aware of these feelings and thoughts, the adolescent can be able to coordinate them and involve the aspect of cognition. This means that the adolescent is able to apply cognition in various situations.

How might an adolescents changing self-concept relate to changes in his or her cognitive development?

According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs because of biological maturation and interaction with the environment (Oakley, L. (2004). On the other hand, self-concept is an individual’s belief about himself or herself, including their personal attributes. It can also refer to an individual perception of their competency or adequacy in academic or non-academic work. An adolescence self-concept changes in relation to their cognitive development. An adolescent organizes his or her self-concepts in many different self-concepts commonly known as self-schemes. An adolescent’s self-concepts can be either high or low based on their cognitive development.

High self-concept. When children reach adolescent they understand better how other persons view them and their skills and are able to differentiate their efforts and abilities resulting to an increase in their self-perceptions. All this is because of rapid cognitive growth due to the changes in the brain structure caused by the increase in knowledge and experience. There is also an increase in freedom. The greater amount of freedom ensures that adolescents participate in various activities for which they are competent (Harter, 1999). These experiences contribute to increased cognitive development. Low self-concept, on the other hand, is attributed to being incompetent where one’s cognitive thinking does not well develop, which results to the development of low self-esteem.

In what ways do you think parents with different styles-authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive-tend to react to attempts to establish autonomy during adolescence?

Authoritarian Style. This parenting style discourages verbal communication between the parent and the child. The parent is in most case status- oriented and expects his or her orders to be followed without questioning (Sadock, Sadock, & Sadock, 2008). He or she controls the children through withdrawal of love or shaming amongst other punishments. They do not usually try to explain reasons for the rules. They are known to use phrases such as, “you will do this because I said,” and “because I’m the parent and you are not.” According to research, adolescents brought up through this style of parenting learn that they should always follow parental rules and observe strict discipline as this is valued over having an independent behavior. They therefore tend to be rebellious or dependent and may develop an aggressive behavior. These adolescents remain dependent.

Authoritative Style. It is also referred to as collaborative parenting style. In this kind of parenting, the parent encourages the child to be independent and autonomous and yet still puts into place fair restrictions on the behavior of the child in a consistent way (Sadock, Sadock, & Sadock, 2008). The parent explains and promotes discussion of the reasons for rules. The parents encourage their adolescents to be independent. They do not use the, “Because I said do rule”, are open to listening, and take into account the point of view of the adolescents. Authoritative parents involve their children in discussions and debates in the matters affecting them although they are the ones responsible in the final decision-making. According to research, adolescents whose parents observe this style of parenting develop negotiating skills and are able to be actively involved in discussions with other persons (Sadock, Sadock, & Sadock, 2008). They learn that their viewpoints are valued and therefore tend to be socially competent, autonomous and responsible.

Permissive style. In this style of parenting the mother, father or guardian is relaxed. He does not punish the child and is in most cases approving of their behavior. The parents are characterized as being very warm and are undemanding. They are not actively involved in their parenting and show their love through giving in to their adolescents every wish. They are known for phrases such as “sure, you can stay up late if you want to.” According to research, adolescents who face this form of parenting learn that consequences from breaking of rules and regulations are not very serious and there are few boundaries in life. This result to the adolescents facing difficulties in self-control and demonstrating egocentric tendencies that result to poor peer relationships.


Anderson, A., Gerrish, R., Layton, L., Morgan, J., Tilstone, C., & Willliams, A. (2013). Child      development and teaching pupils with special educational needs. United Kingdom, UK:            Routledge.

Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford            Press

Lertzman, D. A. (2002). Rediscovering rites of passage: education, transformation, and the           transition to sustainability. Conservation Ecology 5(2): 30.

Meade, M. (1996): Rites of Passage at the End of the Millennium.  In Mahdi, L. C., Christopher, N. G., & Meade, M (Eds.). (1996):  Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of         Passage. Peru, Il: Carus Publishing Co.

Oakley, L. (2004). Cognitive development. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A., & Sadock, B. J. (2008). Kaplan & Sadock’s concise textbook of       clinical psychiatry. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Scott, S. D., Stephen, M., & Blumenkrantz, D. G. (2007). Rites of passage during adolescence.    The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 12 (2).


How does the human body and nervous systems develop?