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7.5: Emotion, Achievement, and Sleep

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    Aggression and antisocial behavior

    Several major theories of the development of antisocial behavior treat adolescence as an important period. Patterson’s (1982) early versus late starter model of the development of aggressive and antisocial behavior distinguishes youths whose antisocial behavior begins during childhood (early starters) versus adolescence (late starters). According to the theory, early starters are at greater risk for long-term antisocial behavior that extends into adulthood than are late starters. Late starters who become antisocial during adolescence are theorized to experience poor parental/caregiver monitoring and supervision, aspects of parenting/caregiving that become more salient during adolescence. Poor monitoring and lack of supervision contribute to increasing involvement with peers who promote adolescents’ own maladaptive behavior. Late starters desist from this type of behavior when changes in the environment make other options more appealing. Similarly, Moffitt’s (1993) life-course persistent versus adolescent-limited model distinguishes between maladaptive behavior that begins in childhood versus adolescence. Moffitt regards this behavior as resulting from a “maturity gap” between adolescents’ dependence on and control by adults and their desire to demonstrate their freedom from adult constraint. However, as they continue to develop, and legitimate adult roles and privileges become available to them, there are fewer incentives to engage in this type of behavior, leading to desistance in such.

    Anxiety and depression

    Developmental models of anxiety and depression also treat adolescence as an important period, especially in terms of the ever present binary of gender differences in prevalence rates that persist through adulthood (Rudolph, 2009). Starting in early adolescence, compared with male identified individuals, female identified individuals have rates of anxiety that are about twice as high and rates of depression that are 1.5 to 3 times as high (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Although the rates vary across specific anxiety and depression diagnoses, rates for some disorders are markedly higher in adolescence than in childhood or adulthood. For example, prevalence rates for specific phobias are about 5% in children and 3%–5% in adults but 16% in adolescents. Anxiety and depression are particularly concerning because suicide is one of the leading causes of death during adolescence. Developmental models focus on interpersonal contexts in both childhood and adolescence that foster depression and anxiety (e.g., Rudolph, 2009). Family adversity, such as abuse and parental/caregiver psychopathology, during childhood sets the stage for social and behavioral problems during adolescence. Adolescents with such problems generate stress in their relationships (e.g., by resolving conflict poorly and excessively seeking reassurance) and select into more maladaptive social contexts (e.g., “misery loves company” scenarios in which depressed youths select other depressed youths as friends and then frequently co-ruminate as they discuss their problems, exacerbating negative affect and stress). These processes are intensified for female identified individuals compared with male identified individuals because female identified individuals have been more socialized towards relationship-oriented goals related to intimacy and social approval, leaving them more vulnerable to disruption in these relationships. Anxiety and depression then exacerbate problems in social relationships, which in turn contribute to the stability of anxiety and depression over time.

    The importance of having help readily available to you when you are depressed and, potentially, suicidal is so important that that help is readily available to anyone in need. If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
    The Lifeline is available for everyone, is free, and confidential.

    Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio

    Available 24 hours everyday

    Academic achievement

    Adolescents spend more waking time in school than in any other context (Eccles & Roeser, 2011). Academic achievement during adolescence is predicted by interpersonal (e.g., parental/caregiver engagement in adolescents’ education), intrapersonal (e.g., intrinsic motivation), and institutional (e.g., school quality) factors. Academic achievement is important in its own right as a marker of positive adjustment during adolescence but also because academic achievement sets the stage for future educational and occupational opportunities, at least in Western cultures, currently. The most serious consequence of school failure, particularly dropping out of school, is the high risk of unemployment or underemployment in adulthood that follows. High achievement can set the stage for college or future vocational training and opportunities.

    Adolescent Sleep

    Adolescents need more sleep! Why don’t adolescents get adequate sleep? In addition to known environmental and social factors, including work, homework, media, technology, and socializing, the adolescent brain is also a factor. As adolescents go through puberty, their circadian rhythms change and push back their sleep time until later in the evening (Weintraub, 2016). This biological change not only keeps adolescents awake at night, it makes it difficult for them to get up in the morning. When they are awake too early, their brains do not function optimally. Impairments are noted in attention, behavior, and academic achievement, while increases in tardiness and absenteeism are also demonstrated.According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) (2016), adolescents need a minimum of 8 hours up to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. On average, adolescents only receive 7 ½ hours of sleep per night on school nights with younger adolescents getting more than older ones (8.4 hours for sixth graders and only 6.9 hours for those in twelfth grade). For the older adolescents, only about one in ten (9%) get an optimal amount of sleep, and they are more likely to experience negative consequences the following day. These include feeling too tired or sleepy, being cranky or irritable, falling asleep in school, having a depressed mood, and drinking caffeinated beverages that can lead to a "crash" feeling later (NSF, 2016). Additionally, they are more at risk for substance abuse, car crashes, poor academic performance, obesity, and a weakened immune system (Weintraub, 2016).

    To support adolescents’ later sleeping schedule, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that school not begin any earlier than 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, over 80% of American schools begin their day earlier than 8:30 a.m. with an average start time of 8:03 a.m. (Weintraub, 2016). Psychologists and other professionals have been advocating for later school times, and they have produced research demonstrating better student outcomes for later start times. More middle and high schools have changed their start times to better reflect the sleep research. However, the logistics of changing start times and bus schedules are proving too difficult for some schools leaving many adolescent vulnerable to the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.

    Different Paths

    Adolescent development does not necessarily follow the same pathway for all individuals. Certain features of adolescence, particularly with respect to biological changes associated with puberty and cognitive changes associated with brain development, are relatively universal. But other features of adolescence depend largely on circumstances that are more environmentally variable. For example, adolescents growing up in one country might have different opportunities for risk taking than adolescents in a different country, and supports and sanctions for different behaviors in adolescence depend on laws and values that might be specific to where adolescents live. Likewise, different cultural norms regarding family and peer relationships shape adolescents’ experiences in these domains. For example, in some countries, adolescents’ parents/caregivers are expected to retain control over major decisions, whereas in other countries, adolescents are expected to begin sharing in or taking control of decision making.

    Even within the same country, adolescents’ gender, ethnicity, immigrant status, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and personality can shape both how adolescents behave and how others respond to them, creating diverse developmental contexts for different adolescents. For example, early puberty (that occurs before most other peers have experienced puberty) appears to be associated with worse outcomes for female identified individuals than male identified individuals, likely in part because female identified individuals who enter puberty early tend to associate with older males, which in turn is associated with early sexual behavior and substance use. For adolescents who are ethnic or sexual minorities, discrimination sometimes presents a bigger set of challenges that non-minorities do not typically face.

    Finally, genetic variations contribute an additional source of diversity in adolescence. Current approaches emphasize gene X environment interactions, which often follow a differential susceptibility model (Belsky & Pluess, 2009). That is, particular genetic variations are considered riskier than others, but genetic variations also can make adolescents more or less susceptible to environmental factors. For example, the association between the CHRM2genotype and adolescent externalizing behavior (aggression and delinquency)has been found in adolescents whose parents/caregivers are low in monitoring behaviors (Dick et al., 2011). Thus, it is important to bear in mind that individual differences play an important role in adolescent development.


    Adolescent development is characterized by biological, cognitive, and social changes. Social changes are particularly notable as adolescents become more autonomous from their parents/caregivers, spend more time with peers, and begin exploring romantic/intimate relationships and sexuality. Adjustment during adolescence is reflected in identity formation, which often involves a period of exploration followed by commitments to particular identities. Adolescence is characterized by risky behavior, which is made more likely by changes in the brain in which reward-processing centers develop more rapidly than cognitive control systems, making adolescents more sensitive to rewards than to possible negative consequences. Despite these generalizations, factors such as country of residence, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation shape development in ways that lead to diversity of experiences across adolescence.

    7.5: Emotion, Achievement, and Sleep is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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