Module 2: perspectives on working with young people: facilitator's guide

3.3 Social development in adolescence

Page last updated: 2004

Development tasks

Young people learn and grow within a social context. They are influenced by their families, peers, communities and societies. Although these systemic factors influence young people in different ways, there are some developmental tasks for young people that take place in a social arena.

These developmental tasks can be broadly discussed in three categories: autonomy, intimacy and identity.
  • Autonomy
    Sometimes when young people are trying to develop skills in independence or autonomy, they will experiment with new activities and seek exciting experiences. The way in which they try to achieve this varies greatly, ranging from a gradual process where the parent/s begin to let go of their control, to one where the young person continues to push the boundaries resulting in conflict between them and their parent/s.

  • Intimacy
    • Development of personal identity ('Who am I?')
    • Establishing autonomy, discovering a sense of self and separation from the family.
    • In achieving these tasks, young people begin to think, behave and model their physical appearance on their peers.
    • In addition to experiencing physical bodily changes in preparing to become sexual beings, young people begin to become sexually interested in others. They become concerned about their physical and sexual attractiveness to others and commonly begin to experiment with intimacy and sexual relationships.

  • Identity
    As young people learn about themselves through developing intimacy with others and through learning how to become independent, they inevitably begin to assess their values, beliefs and identities.

    During adolescence, young people will often experiment with hairstyles, clothing and attitudes and will begin to question bigger issues in their society. These are important developmental issues for young people as they begin to form their adult identities.
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Overhead transparency

  • Autonomy
  • Intimacy
  • Identity

Brainstorm/group activity

Ask learners to brainstorm the following question and list the responses on butcher's paper for the whole group to discuss.

Question - What are some developmental issues that young people in your community face?

Answer - Issues may include pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, same-sex attraction, risk-taking behaviours, etc.