An adolescent’s own rate of physical maturation can have a striking effect on his or her self-concept and relationships with parents and peers. Some researchers have identified distinctive differences in personality between early- and late-maturers. Late-maturing boys probably face the most difficulties in adjustment because of the importance placed by their peers on strength and physical prowess. They are particularly disadvantaged during the period when they are shorter and less muscular than the other boys in the class, because they often do not have the physical ability to cope easely with game skills. They may, because of this, never catch up with the early maturers who take the lead in such activities. To compensate, however, late-maturing boys sometimes take a greater interest in academic skills, although they still tend to be less popular than their classmates, have poorer self-concepts and engage in more immature attention-seeking behaviour. A few of these traits may persist into adulthood long after the physical differences have disappeared.
Late-maturing girls may display traits similar to those of boys but to a lesser extent. Early maturing girls who are still in primary school may be at a disadvantage because they appear taller and more grown-up than both boys and girls of the same age, which may make them feel self-conscious.
Choosing a job or career
An important factor in the social life of adolescents is their preparation for work. As they pass through adolescence they begin to spend more time thinking about vocational goals, and they become progressively more realistic about what is achievable. The maturation of vocational choice occurs in three stages. Firstly, the fantasy period of early and middle childhood: this involves selecting occupations which seem active, exciting or glamorous; for example, being an astronaut, a policeman or policewoman, or a fashion model or explorer. In the tentative period which starts at pre-adolescence, young people extrapolate their personal interests into possible careers; they also start to evaluate their ability for doing jobs that interest them. Eventually, at around the age of 17 or 18, most adolescents integrate interest and abilityand evaluate them together, to produce a realistic choice. Then by working out levels of aspiration, motivation and job requirement, adolescents pursue their objective by educational and vocational planning, or through setting out to acquire the relevant work experience. As adolescents’ vocational intentions become progressively more realistic and less influenced by glamour and excitement, they also become more stable. The older the individual, the less likely he or she is to change vocational plans. However, many people do not sort out their vocation until a long time after adolescence. By the age of 25 a significant proportion of people have still not attained vocational stability; and some people successfully change career in middle age.
An adolescent’s vocational interest may be guided by parental desires, schoolteacher suggestions, the influence of other adults, contact in some way with various occupations, and the career choices of peers. Some occupations may be more popular with one generation of adolescents than with another, but in general adolescents tend to strive for similar goals to those attained by their parents.
At the beginning of the seventies there was usually work for everybody who wanted to work. When somebody did not work, it could be assumed there were special circumstances in the private or professional environment of the person concerned. At the beginning of the eighties, a time span of only ten years, this picture changed radically. The large group of unemployed consists mainly of youths.
If unemployment in general is already considered as a serious social problem, youth unemployment is even more serious, because youths after leaving school do not get a chance to gain experience in the workfield. Long-term unemployment does not only lead to no prospects, with youths the frustration at not getting a job is buried even deeper than might be the case with older people. They are being confirmed in their role of being an under-aged, dependent child, without the prospect of’adulthood’. Youth unemployment should thus be considered against the background of the prevalent opinions in society regarding work. Work is considered an important means for the development of the individual and is regarded by many as an obligation towards society. For youths, it is said, this obligation should count even more than for older people. Some people are worried that youth unemployment will lead to a decrease in the number of trained skilled workers and will undermine the value of certificates and qualifications based on examination successes. To these people it seems essential that education should be better attuned to the requirements and opportunities of the labour market. Added to these factors is the fear that too long a period of inactivity leads to estrangement and apathy on the part of the young people concerned. This lack of perspective could lead to unwanted behaviour: criminality, extremism or drug abuse.
Youth unemployment should be handled with a flexible policy directed on a long-term basis, according to the views of many specialists in this field. Thus, among other things, social projects or environmental programmes can be initiated, or volunteer work encouraged as an option on a short-term basis. Independent enterprise or partaking in collective activities – such as sport, creative projects and music -are other possibilities.
In the absence of concrete plans by the government to solve the structural youth unemployment problem these are valuable initiatives that could improve the situation of the moment.