Abstract: Adolescence is the years between puberty and entry into the adult status / adulthood. But the transition from child to adult takes place more gradually and lasts several years. Adolescence has traditionally been viewed as beginning with the onset of puberty, with a sudden spurt of physical growth accompanied by sexual maturity which ends when individuals assume the responsibilities associated with adult life – marriage, work and so on. Researchers suggest the role of the effect of this growth spurt on the adolescents’ emotional, cognitive and social development.
Keywords: puberty, adolescence, mental health, depression, anxiety, maladjustment, girls’ inferiority
Adolescence is the years between puberty and entry into the adult status/ adulthood. But the transition from child to adult takes place more gradually and lasts several years. Adolescence has traditionally been viewed as beginning with the onset of puberty, with a sudden spurt of physical growth accompanied by sexual maturity which end when individuals assume the responsibilities associated with adult life–marriage, work and so on.(Rice, 1992).
The beginning of adolescence is signaled by a sudden increase in the rate of growth which starts earlier in girls (Stagner, 1998). Researchers suggest the role of the effect of this growth spurt on the adolescents’ emotional, cognitive and social development.
It has now been found that adolescents were at a great risk with respect to physical and mental health now- a –days, than at earlier times due to newer and uniquely disturbing set of problems (Baron 1996). These include the use of alcohol, homicide, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide and separation from parents. Teenagers of today face a set of conditions and perils that their earlier generation were strangers to. According to the journal, The American Psychologist, the root of all adolescent problems arises at home. Children coming from divorced parent- absent families develop fear, anxiety and insecurity (Raphel, 1990). Usually they are the academic underachievers and may develop a marked tendency for delinquent behavior or have an inability to form strong relationships. Many teenagers who find themselves in “dysfunctional families” — i.e. families that cannot or do not meet the child’s needs, suffer from anxiety and insecurity. (Kotch, Brown,1991). Children who had been subject to sexual abuse were found to develop depression, body complaints and withdrawal symptoms and were found to have greater adjustment problems (Williams and Finkelhor,1993).
Adjustment is a dynamic, rather than a static quality. Well adjusted children make good social adjustments and have harmonious relationship with people around them. The mental health of an individual has its base in his ability to adjust.
While recognizing the role of mental health in the overall development of the adolescents, it should be borne in mind that adjustment attains special emphasis as it can either facilitate or hinder mental health. Sensing the importance attached to this concept, an attempt is made to analyze the role of adjustment, upon the mental health of both adolescent boys and girls.
The hypothesis tested was: “ The pattern of adjustment will be different for adolescent boys and girls”.:
The sample of the study consists of 200 adolescents– i.e. 100 boys and 100 girls, from various colleges in Thiruvananthapuram. The sample was selected at random, but given equal representation on the basis of age, religion and socio-economic status.
Tools Used in the Study:
1. Mathen Maladjustment Inventory
2. Personal Data Sheet
The inventory measures five major aspects of maladjustment and also gives an index of general maladjustment. The variables are:
1. Anxiety: which leads to fear, worry, being upset etc.
2. Depression: which leads to suicidal thoughts, feelings of guilt, disinterest.
3. Mania: which is indicated by lack of social control, over activity and quick temper.
4. Inferiority: which leads to sensitiveness, shyness and lack of self confidence.
5. Paranoia: which includes suspiciousness, not trusting others and getting into quarrels.
6. Total Maladjustment: consists of anxiety, mania, depression, inferiority, phobias and nightmares.
Analysis of Data:
The data pertaining to the variables of the study were analyzed with test.
Means, S.D and T value showing the significance of the difference in the 5 Variables of Adjustment for Boys and Girls
|Significant at 5 % level|
From the table it may be noted that the t value are significant at 5% level in the case of maladjustment variable, depression and inferiority. The values are not significant for mania and paranoia, which might be because of the fact that the sample of the present study comes under the normal category.
Detailed scrutiny of the result reveals that girls have more depression and inferiority, compared to the boys. The higher incidence of depression in girls might be because of her realization that society has double standards for boys and girls regarding the same issue. She has to be submissive and less assertive in order to get male approval. During adolescent years, this difference becomes clearer and can cause depression. Moreover the hormonal change and a distorted body image also result in girls experiencing depression (Nolan Hokesoma, 1994). No less a person than E. Barbara has pointed out that estrogen can increase depression during periods of menstruation. The show conducted by Oprah Winfrey also ascertained that girls experience more depression than boys (2000, Star World).
The prevalence of inferiority among the girls may be due to society’s expectation of a certain kind of behavior from them. Girls are expected to be docile and submissive, whereas boys are expected to be aggressive. The girl may be educated, or may enjoy the privilege of wealth and high society, but she is expected to be shy and sensitive.
The variable anxiety is somewhat the same for both sexes and this is indicative of the modern trend of parents to treat boys and girls in the same way. Practically, there are only slight differences in their experiences.
With regard to the manifestation of total maladjustment, girls are found to have more variable. This might be because, unlike the earlier generation, a higher percentage of women work both outside and inside homes. Thus, she has to have a dual role–the hitherto masculine role of working in offices or work places, and also follow the feminine role model inside the home, as expected by society. The adolescent is literally crushed by the double standards of society.
The study proves that the pattern of adjustment is different for adolescent boys and girls. Mental health and adjustment pattern of an individual are interdependent, and so it is necessary to take preventive, remedial measures to lower the amount of depression and inferiority in girls. Otherwise, we are in danger of rearing the mothers of tomorrow, in such a way, that they can never cope with life’s experiences.
Barbara, E. Effect of Menstruation on Academic Performance among College Students. 6.4. 1979: 289-296.
Baron, R. A. Psychology ; Chapter IX : 1996: 339-342. Kotch, J .B; Browne, D.H. “Correlation of Dysfunctional Parenting Attitudes among Low Income Adolescent Mothers”, Journal of Adolescent Research, 6.1991: 212 – 214.
Slagner, J. M. “Menarche and Exercise” Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality. 22. 1988: 118-133.
Mathew, G. V. Mathew Maladjustment Inventory , University of Kerala. 1962. Nolen Hokesma & Girgus,J .S. The Emergence of Gender difference in Depression during Adolescence: Psychological Bulletin, 115. 1994: 424 – 443 .
Oprah- Winfrey. Show conducted by Oprah Winfrey on a Survey on Depression
among Children in America 2000. Williams, L .M & Finkelher, D. Impact of Sexual Abuse on Children: A Review & Synthesis of Recent Empirical Studies, Psychological Bulletin. 113. 1993: 164-180.
MRIDULA NAIR.B Teaches Psychology at the M.G.College, Thiruvananthapuram. Her doctoral thesis is entitled ‘The Effect of Change in Medium of Instruction on Sex, Personality and Adjustment’. She is interested in adolescent mental health and has conducted pre- marital counselling sessions for undergraduate students.