Adolescence A Sensitive Period For Identity Development

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In South Africa, adolescence is a sensitive period, and not a critical period, for identity development as it is “a period during which normal development is most sensitive to abnormal environmental conditions” (Bruer, 2001). When looking at South Africa particularly, the abnormal environmental conditions would be apartheid, and one will see its profound effects on identity development. Adolescence is a sensitive period rather than a critical period as a critical period focuses on a system that “requires a specific kind of experience if normal development is to occur” (Bruer, 2001). Therefore this essay will place an emphasis on adolescence as a sensitive period for identity development.
One first needs to explore the term, sensitive period, before analysing the importance of adolescence for identity development. A sensitive period is a “time during development when a specific manipulation or experience changes the developmental trajectory of a system” (Armstrong et al., 2006). The period in which a sensitive period occurs cannot be easily defined as each individual may experience this period at slightly different times, however, we do know that the termination of a sensitive period is driven by the maturation of the individual (Armstrong et al., 2006). There are various reasons as to why sensitive periods are significant in psychology, which in turn will provide reasoning behind adolescence being a sensitive period for identity development rather than a critical period. Firstly, the impact of a particular experience may affirm the coding of information in one’s memory (Bornstein, 1989). Secondly, due to the fact that sensitive periods occur regularly throughout one’s life span, it exemplifies the interactional character of devel...

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...than at other times throughout life” (Armstrong et al., 2006).This therefore proves that whatever occurs during a sensitive period, it will have an effect on an individual’s identity development, which will also contribute to the theory that adolescence is a sensitive period in the development of one’s identity.
Therefore, based on all the evidence provided above, one will see that adolescence is indeed a sensitive period for identity development in South Africa. Due to South Africa’s history of apartheid, it is a unique example which shows how it affected adolescents and in turn affected the development for their identity. It is also evident that identity formation relies on society’s expectations and recognition of the individual. However it is important for individuals not to lose their cultural identity as it could result in a loss of their individual identity.

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