Issuu on Google+

Adolescence: a Keyword Dictionary Table of Contents Behavior by Devan Picard


Curiosity by Mae Bowley


Disconnected by Alana Wynes


Identity by Lindsay Abramo


Identity Crisis by Emily Sanders


Impulsive by Paulina Camacho


Persona by Heather Smith


Psychosocial Moratorium by Jessica Rosenbaum


Sassy by Sarah Lesser


Transformation by Rayshawn Nowlin



Devan Picard

How one behaves does not relate to a linear progression of time that can be associated with the age of a person. Behavior depends on a person’s state of mind. Waddell (1998) defines ‘states of mind’ as, “any one state of mind in the present, however fleeting, is founded in the past, and at the same time it encompasses a possible future. Much rests on its nature and quality” (p. 5). Behavior is an indication of how the individual interprets external circumstances in relation to their emotional memory. Human development is thus is a reflexive process in which the individual is constantly interacting with their interpretations of past experiences when they encounter new ones. Waddell’s (1998) theory of development suggests that that perception is an internal, emotional experience. Additionally, social expectations and perceptions of behavior depend on the ‘normal’ cultural practices that govern behavior. Good behavior in one place might be bad behavior in another place. The polarity of the ways in which society sees behavior, as good or bad, leaves little room for experimentation with different ways to act out our inside lives. This is particularly harrowing for adolescents whose external situations are increasingly regulated at around the same time they are undergoing biological changes. Nakkula & Toshalis (2006) define adolescence as a social construction, rather than a ‘phase’. Adolescents are stereotyped as being less-than human, or not quite human, because of the dominant cultural narrative that youth tend to act without thinking. Adolescents’ multiple avenues of self-expression are seen as proof of internal chaos, instability, and hormonal imbalance. Nakkula and Toshalis argue, Adolescents are, by necessity, experimenters. They not only experiment with risky behavior but also with everyday questions that hold deep implications for shaping the rest of their lives. They are theoreticians precisely because they lack many of the necessary facts…They must imagine who and what they might become, based on who and what they hope to be, and in doing so they must experiment with getting there. (p. 5)

By engaging the risks involved with experimenting with their identities, teenagers are exhibiting essential developmental behavior. Nakkula and Toshalis argue, “adolescents are actively creating development itself. It is largely this process of creating themselves and the worlds they inhabit that we call the construction on adolescence” (p.5). In order to enter into a meaningful relationship with adolescents, adults and educators need to move beyond mere observation and taxonomic grouping of youth behaviors. This argument is enriched by Erikson’s concept of the role of moratorium in adolescent development. It is essential for youth to explore different ways of being in the world before they begin to have the longstanding relationships and aspirations typically associated with those of adulthood (p. 107). Experimenting with different ways of behaving is a valuable way for youth to understand themselves in relation to their desires, and ultimately, to find clarity in the ways they think and speak for themselves. Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth; Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Routledge Sweetman, P. (2004). Tourists and travelers? ‘Subcultures’, reflexive identities and neo-tribal sociality. After subculture; Critical studies in contemporary youth culture. (p. 79-93). Bennet, A. & Kahn-Harris, K., (Eds.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside lives; Psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. London, England: Karnac Ltd.



Mae Bowley

‘Who ARE you talking to?' said the King, going up to Alice, and looking at the Cat's head with great curiosity

Carroll, 1946, p. 67

Curiosity is a form of desire that leads us into new experiences and toward new knowledge. When curiosity pays off in a pleasurable way, our desire to know is reinforced. In this way, curiosity is critical to the development of the personality. However, sometimes curiosity brings forms of awareness that confuse, shock, or scare us. Take, for example, the adolescent who is curious about sex and decides to partake with friends in the viewing of pornographic images. For one adolescent, the impact of that experience may be manageable, but for another, it may be traumatic. The adolescent, “shocked into a sudden and confusing awareness of a whole new world” (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2006, p. 179), can feel betrayed by his curious impulse and lash back against it, thus learning to distrust his own desire to explore. His repression of curiosity then becomes a source of anxiety and may come at a cost to his imagination and his desire to understand (Waddell, 2002, p. 94). While adolescents struggle to manage their curiosities, they also contend with adults’ curiosity about them. Adults may wish to know more about youth in order to police youth, to assist them, or simply to understand them. To the adolescent, the inquiry of adults is often experienced like an inquisition: adult curiosity feels unwelcome, intrusive, and unhelpful. The adolescent, feeling already uncomfortable and torn between multiple identities, can react negatively to the adult, despite the adult's best intentions. Teachers, parents, and mentors can strive to approach adolescents with genuine curiosity, a kind of inquiry that aids the adolescent in the search for self and helps orient him or her along the path to developing a complex, robust understanding of self (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2006, p. xii). Carroll, L. (1946). Alice in Wonderland. Forgotten Books. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside lives: psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. Karnac Books Ltd.



Alana Wynes

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, disconnected is defined as “not related to or connected with the things or people around” ( dictionary/disconnect). When linked to adolescence, this definition merely scrapes the surface with its simple reference to external affairs. In the world of adolescence, disconnection typically occurs internally, within adolescents themselves. Here, familial associations, friendships, their physical bodies, emotions and relation to the world can come to feel like places where the adolescent struggles to connect in a meaningful way. According to Waddell (1998), “At puberty, a splitting occurs between different parts of the self… into confusion about good and bad, adult and infantile, male and female etc.” (p. 150). The previous containment of the parental setting has shifted and it has been replaced with that of friendships. Waddell (1998) adds that, “As family bonds start to loosen…the company of friends may be sought to enable the young person to sustain some kind of relationship with the different aspects of his personality” (p. 151). However, even within the peer group, the adolescent may act in ways that will lead to a feeling of disconnection or self-estrangement. Waddell (1998) points out that “group life can provide these young people with social ways of sorting out who they are… ‘trying out’…different versions of themselves and others’ reactions to them” (p. 151). Yet, during this exploration, adolescents often internalize societal messages causing what Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) would call “going underground”, or confronting “the fact that they cannot bring their full selves into relationships with others” (p.103). To maintain a connection with the outside world, the adolescent becomes disconnected from him or herself. Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) point out that, “Going underground in search of self protection, at the risk of losing one’s authentic self, has obvious parallels in the developmental realities of gay and lesbian youth” (p. 114). In addition to these personal complexities, the adolescent body is also flung into a period of rapid and unfamiliar physical change. The body is filling out and hormones are escalating. Waddell (1998) describes adolescent development as a conflict “between the conscious thoughts and unconscious impulses attached to these new physical sensations” (p. 142). In the attempt to travel the journey of development alone and without guidance, the adolescent is thrown into a world filled with doubt, insecurity, and confusion: a place in which outlets for expression become inaccessible and meaningful connections cannot be made. The adult or educator can help facilitate connections between inside and outside worlds for the adolescent by creating a space in which these dualities can be explored, tested, and experienced, such as through role-playing, art making, and music. Art projects that youth can relate to will help build bridges between inner and outer worlds. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Disconnect. (n.d.). In Oxford Advanced Learner’s Online Dictionary. Retrieved from Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.



Lindsay Abramo

Identity is a fluid description of an individual in relation to social categories or expectations. Identity is continually renegotiated depending on identification or difference from social markers. Identity can be used to characterize an individual or a group of people. According to Wetherell (2010), “identity is endlessly accomplished and then undone, endlessly incomplete and always only ‘part of the story’” (p. 16). This negotiation is never static, universal, or lacking complexity. As individuals develop, the way they experience the world around them changes. Identity becomes very influential during adolescence because adolescents are constantly negotiating and constructing their lives. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) argue: Our identities capture the stories of who we are; that is, they represent the core themes around which we construct the meaning of our lives. Because adolescence ushers in so many new experiences, accompanied by advanced thinking skills, the process of identity development is highlighted during this time. (p. 6) This process provides adolescents with a context in which to understand themselves in relation to the world around them. If adolescents are able to grasp, “the core themes around which we construct meaning of our lives,” they will find it easier to deal with the new experiences associated with adolescent development (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2006, p. 6). For students, identity can be described as the way they choose to live their lives, define themselves, and position themselves in relation to others. Alexander (2007) states, “academic narratives of identity have increasingly moved towards the assertion of open, shifting and increasingly multiple forms of identification—of identity defined by choice, lifestyle and performance” (p. 123). The adolescent’s capacity to navigate the process of renegotiating their identity is an important developmental achievement. They are able to try on different versions of their identity while figuring out which elements they find the most valuable and consistent. As educators, it is important that we provide students with safe spaces to explore and experience new identities. Although the formation of identity is seen as an individual process, teachers can help students negotiate the complexities of identity in a constructive way within a classroom setting. The art room is a great place to offer private spaces that can help students construct and learn about their own worlds. Students also have the ability to work independently and create artwork that has personal significance or meaning to their own lives. Alexander, C. (2007). Cohesive identities: the distance between meaning and understanding. In Wetherell, P. M., Lafleche, M., & Berkeley, R. Identity, ethnic diversity and community cohesion (pp. 115-125). Sage Publications Ltd. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: adolescent development for educators. Harvard Education Press. Wetherell, M. (2010). The field of identity studies. In Wetherell, M. (2010). The Sage handbook of identities (1st ed.) (pp. 3-26). Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE Publications.


Identity Crisis

Emily Sanders

Are you unsure of your role in life? Do you feel like you don't know the 'real you'? If you answer yes to the previous questions, you may be experiencing an identity crisis. 

I have often heard the term identity crisis used to describe people of no particular developmental stage who are dealing with some confusion in their life. It seems that many people use the term identity crisis universally, without knowing that this it is a stage of adolescent development. While many adults consider themselves vulnerable to the mental and emotional intensity of identity crisis, I have also heard many adults disregard and belittle this developmental process. It is oftentimes considered to be relatively insignificant compared to the experiences in the adult world. As Waddell (1998) reminds us, “The mental or psychological period between childhood and maturity does not necessarily occur at the time traditionally defined as ‘youth’”(140). While adolescence is usually epitomized by the teenage years, it can also be characterized how one is mentally and emotionally oriented to their own life at any age (p.140). Erikson coined the term identity crisis in his eight-stage model of lifelong development. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2008), each of these eight developmental stages are, “organized around a specific crisis that must be resolved in order to increase the likelihood of healthy development in subsequent stages” (p. 19). Erikson identified the fifth stage as Identity vs. Role Confusion; this stage focuses on the adolescent’s task of identifying a sense of self and applying it to the current and future self. There is constant pressure on adolescents to explain who they are and who they plan to be, and this can be an exhausting experience. Waddell (1998) describes this process as the adolescent’s, “attempt to discover who he is, or who she is, and to define more clearly their sense-of-themselves-in-the-world” (p. 157). This process of centering oneself in the world is the essential crisis to overcome in the process of identity formation. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of Personality. New York: Routledge. Cherry, K. (n.d.). Identity Crisis: Theory and Research. Retrieved from /od/theoriesofpersonality/a/identitycrisis.htm.



Paulina Camacho

The term impulsive is typically associated with negative connotations of adolescent behavior. My understanding of the word is based on a culturally and socially constructed meaning. Adolescents are typically understood to act without regard to consequence or consideration of the implications of their actions and behavior. Often when adults behave impulsively their actions are quickly attributed to adolescent immaturity. The lyrics to the song Temptation by Tiger Army offer an example of the balancing act and moral dilemma adolescents face when making decisions: Too many decisions that I can’t decide I don’t know what I’m gonna do. The things I’ve seen, places I’ve been always told me, “Stay away from sin.” Now I could try and do right, but it always turns out wrong I guess that if I didn’t wouldn’t have no fun. Sometimes I try to set my sights up higher, but if there’s a heaven I’m bound for the fire. Temptation. The lyrics demonstrate an awareness that actions have consequences, but also a feeling of hopelessness about making the right choices and feeling that regardless of one’s decision, it will ultimately be the wrong choice. Nakkula & Toshalis (2008) argue that imagination and experimentation play an important role in adolescent development. Adolescents are expected to make well informed choices based on abstract thinking and theorizing without having any experience to ground their decisions (p. 4). Impulsive behavior is not out of character for young people given that they have no firm way of truly knowing the effect their choices will have. An important part of adolescent development is learning how to anticipate consequences. Impulsive behavior is based on being in the moment and making choices without thinking about or knowing the outcome. Factors such as containment and developing a sense of stability during the latency period affect the way young people learn and make choices (Waddell, 1998, p. 142). However, having grown up with a well-balanced combination of containment, support, and stability does not exclude an adolescent from behaving impulsively on occasion, especially if impulse is based in not knowing. Nakkula & Toshalis (2008) remind us that adolescent exploration can be healthy up to a certain point; the difficulty arises when impulsive behavior becomes habitual (p. 33). If parents and teachers do not chastise impulsive behavior in young people, adolescents will be encouraged to explore and learn from their experience, ultimately developing a sense of consequence for their actions. Waddell (1998) states, “The kind of learning which contributes to the growth of the personality is that which engages with life passionately and honestly, if painfully” (p. 122). Exploration should be encouraged in young people as long as their behavior does not compromise their own or another’s safety and well being. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: adolescent development for educators. Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside lives; Psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. London: Karnac Ltd.


awa y

bu t

Too many decision s that I can’t decide I don ’ t k now what I’ m gonna do. The ces I’vepbl t hings I’ve seen, p l ad me," aeceens St n always t ol I’ f rom sin ay .” N ow I co ve b ee



u g i t alw a ys turns out wld try and do r i that if I r o ng I gu e s s ldn’t have no f u o e t m i w s t I e m ’ o n d tr y di un. S y s i ghts up m t n to s e re t h e re’s a h e ave I’m b o u n e h t r, but if e MPTA T ION h g i h mptat i o n. TE e .t T . e on.TemptatioN emptation.tempt

fir e r th

.Temp n ation. o i . tem p t I T O N A t T fo ta TIO N.TE M P p A 't em s that I don ngs n o a do. T h e TE M n en s I’vefrboem e pt Te m d e ay ny t, a h I m g i t oo wha d e ow s d VE kn e n SI VE v L a ’ I PU ULSI y IM IMP E thi n gs V SI d UL VE VE l P I o t I s M y S I S a l wa o IMPUL PUL PULSIVE c I w o IM IM s i n . ” N LSIVE ULSIVE E o. The U IMP V I E t IMP V I S bu UL ULS gon n aydfrom







i on.

’ m cisi e m gon n uld e, , p “ tr Sta lac ya w o r

t hi











Im puls i




MP imp u

lsi ve



ive IM





no fun

so L MP U eI



wron gI


nd d



eti y m e s i tr VE





IMPULSIV E E V ls i ve LSI im pu

I u l sive t i t alw a y s t u rns out wr o n th a t if ’t have o fu n I d i dn’t wou l dn



L S I t, b u s U P IM igh gu es ive ls i v or


imp uls





m si n.” N fId idn’ t ut if t her e’s a


ha r, b st e es hi gh u g

ve n




b ca I’m at I es I h t s n o c t a , pl a y decisi an gs I’ve seeny and do ri g ho m eti m a h e r n S t . d i n l u u h w I co . no f et o on have ta t i dn’t p l u m te wo

f ay


I gu

ght su p




t se


st ay


g hi

mp V E Im tatio

t e I d way s s ur n



ol w w d ha t I’m t w e, “ ron S tay g



sive im pulsi

d o. Too m Th



o kn









VE I t de cid L S IV ’ ve bee ,b na o ut i t al n’t w l e










awa h a t ss t




g n I







Per.son.a |persone|

Heather Smith

Noun (pl. sonas or sonae |-sone|) The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others: her public persona. In psychology, often contrasted with ANIMA. A role or character adopted by an author or an actor. ORIGIN early 20th cent.: Latin ‘mask, character played by an actor.’

Adolescents spend many hours of their days deeply engrossed in a very personal construction that entails a lot of cutting, pasting, and readjusting, as they struggle to ‘craft’ an identity. At a time when many students are beginning to grow painfully self-conscious of various aspects of their ‘selves’, how they fit (or don’t fit) into their socio-cultural surroundings becomes of paramount importance. Negotiating the “incongruities between our internally defined selves and those selves that are defined, confirmed, and/or denied by others” (Nakkula &Toshalis, 2010, p. 19) can be akin to traversing a battleground where fierce courage and determination are required to fully express one’s sense of ‘self’. In the face of this psychic turmoil, personas, or masks, are adopted and adapted. These personas function not only as shields to protect aspects of the ‘self’ that are considered too vulnerable to be shared, but also as crucial conduits for the process of projection. According to socio-anthropologist Marcel Mauss (1938/1985), the very concept of the ‘self’ is an evolving fabrication that is both composite in character and illusory. For centuries, humans have been adjusting to one another in direct relation to social history and it is through this relationship that roles regarding the ‘self’, the ‘person’, and the ‘persona’ are constructed. This argument reflects Erikson’s theory of personal and social development. Like Mauss, Erikson suggests that the identity of the individual self is shaped by the constructs of one’s sociocultural surroundings, and this constant interaction between the psychosocial environment and the self continues to shape the personality throughout one’s lifetime (qtd. In Slavin, 2009, p. 46). As youth struggle to fit an emerging sense of individual ‘self’ into the larger construct of society they simultaneously struggle to negotiate the mental and emotional turbulence that accompanies the physiological shifts associated with adolescent development (Waddell, 2005). Personas enable the adolescent to manage an influx of anxieties, fears, and desires, by simultaneously masking them, and acting them out. This act of projection embodies a wide spectrum of attributes: from acts of utter compliance, as in uncharacteristically surrendering to peer pressure, to the hyper-rebelliousness and long stereotyped state known as ‘teenage angst’. Waddell (2005) maintains that this act of projection can be a positive process for selfexploration when the projected aspects of the self are given ample space to be engaged with, investigated, and ultimately re-introjected. As educators working with adolescents, we hold tremendous potential for facilitating these types of spaces. It is crucial that we strive to retain heightened levels of awareness, compassion, and emotional availability in our classrooms as our students grapple consciously and unconsciously with the art of integrating who they are in the world with who they are told they ought to be in the world. Mauss, M. (1938/1985). A category of the human mind: The notion of the person; The notion of the self. In M. Carrithers, The category of the person: Anthropology, philosophy, history. Cambridge: University Press. Nakkula, M. & Toshalis, E. (2010). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Slavin, R. (2009). Educational psychology: Theory and practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Waddell, M. (2005). Inside lives: Psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. London: Karnac Books Ltd.


Psychosocial Moratorium

Jessica Rosenbaum

psychosocial: involving both psychological and social aspects moratorium: a suspension of activity 

Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) describe the erratic nature of the shifting identities of adolescents as an ongoing battle resulting “from the pressures placed on adolescents as they attempt to construct an identity that will meet with the support of their friends, family, teachers, and society at large” (p. 21). The constant shifting of not yet knowing who they are, imagining who they wish to be, and questioning how others see them can lead adolescents to confusion, anger, and frustration: a crisis situation. This pressure is coupled with the anxiety that stems from a desire to be autonomous and unique—an adolescent’s imagined self (p. 21). The possibilities of identity are vast and overwhelming, and can feel heart stopping when one must walk through the doors of high school each day while engaged in this battle. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) use Erikson’s idea of a psychosocial moratorium (p. 20) to describe a safe zone—a middle space in between childhood and adulthood, a space that allows adolescents to exist as they are and as they imagine themselves to be during this crisis of identity. In this space, possibilities can be safely imagined and played with, and the “normative expectations” of adults, school, and society can be defied (p. 24). Waddell (1998) also explores the idea of a psychological safe zone. Waddell describes her idea of a “container” throughout the states of mind or stages of development as a way of holding together the pieces of our disjointed selves (p. 32). She goes on to explain that “Adolescence may be compliant or rebellious- it is a process, not a state” (p. 131). An adolescent must contain these pieces of identity, within a psychosocial safe space, throughout the process. Central to this process of containment is the role played by an adult who can hold onto the difficult emotions of an adolescent’s identity formation and support his or her growth in learning to self-contain. Looking at the dictionary definitions of the words psychosocial and moratorium through the theories of Nakkula and Toshalis, Erikson, and Waddell, I understand the concept as a cease-fire in the battle of identity formation, if only for a time, to gather up the pieces of the self. I would argue that the moratorium is not a cessation of all activity; rather, I understand it to be a space for play. Instead of the adolescent having to choose between this or that identity, the possibilities of identity can be explored, imagined, tested, and played with. I can envision the art classroom as serving this type of function for adolescent students. The art room as a containing space of psychosocial moratorium will, hopefully, give adolescents a chance to explore different facets of their identity through art practices that explore issues of questioning, defiance, and new ideas. In this way, the art teacher can help to take in, to contain, “the fragmentary impulses and emotions” (Waddell, 1998, p. 32) the young person experiences and give them a space to play and imagine through encounters with art and artmaking. Moratorium. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster online. Retrieved from Psychosocial. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster online. Retrieved from Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside lives: Psycholanalysis and the growth of the personality. New York, NY: Routledge.



Sarah Lesser

Sassy has become the first word I use to describe teenagers. When acquaintances express their horror at my choosing to work with adolescents, I let them know that “you just need to embrace the sass” (of course, it’s not that simple). I choose the word sassy because it has implications beyond its negative connotations, lending itself to the complexity that is the adolescent experience. Sassy often comes with impudence and backtalk, but it is not necessarily—or inherently—disrespectful. Sassy also carries strong associations with humor, quick wit, and spunk—all positive attributes in my book. Sassy is known to pal around with bad attitude, but keeping in line with the richness of the classification, it can be understood in terms of Nakkula and Toshalis’s (2006) ideas about relational development. What is inherent to sassy is its interpersonal nature; the adolescent’s sassiness is conveyed through interactions, generally verbal. With adolescents, sassy behavior and speech frequently occurs among their interactions with peers and adults. Nakkula and Toshalis’s discussion of Robert Selman’s concept of interpersonal negotiation strategies provides a useful grounding in understanding the place of sassy in adolescent development. In particular, sassy is evident in Selman’s Level 0 and Level 1 strategies for development, in which adolescents display impulsive responses and make unilateral demands, respectively. Sassy can also be used to describe adolescents in Level 2, as they work to negotiate the spaces between their independent and interconnected, relational selves (pp. 87-90). Selman’s ideas of interpersonal development are no doubt derivative of some of the more classic development perspectives we looked to in Slavin’s (2008) text. Vygotsky’s theories of development are useful in explaining sassy behavior as a tool adolescents use as they negotiate ideas of appropriate and constructive interpersonal interaction. Sassy also finds ground in Erikson’s fifth stage, identity versus role confusion. As adolescents’ identities develop, they are negotiating the spaces where childhood and current selves, future projections, and peer and adult interactions come together, and they often display sassy behavior in experimenting with their new roles (pp. 42-48). From her work with adolescents, Joyce West Stevens wrote a book called Smart and Sassy: The Strengths of Inner City Black Girls (2002). Though Stevens was chronicling the social development of a certain population, I appreciate her use of sassy because it illustrates this word’s positive and productive associations. Stevens chose the word sassy to describe her subjects’ behavior because of the “bold, determined, and courageous stance of the young black women that [she] was fortunate enough to study” (p. ix). Importantly, Stevens sees this sassy behavior as a key place of risk and resilience in adolescents’ interpersonal development. Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Slavin, R. E. (2008). Educational psychology: Theory and practice. Pearson/Allyn & Bacon Publishers. Stevens, J. W. (2002). Smart and sassy: The strengths of inner city black girls. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.



Rayshawn Nowlin

The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary (2006) defines the root word transform as “to change in structure, appearance, or character” (p.1093). The problem with this definition is its inference that change is a singular occurrence. In other words, once a thing changes, there is no need for it to change again. In 1984, the toy company Hasbro introduced Transformers, robotic action figures that changed into modern machines: cars, planes, tanks, radios, etc. The toys became extremely popular with the help of the tagline “Transformers, more than meets the eyes.” However, the toys were usually only limited to two possible changes. Can adolescence be thought of as more than meets the eye? Can the idea of transformation be more than a change that just happens one time? These questions are important as teens negotiate relationships with family members and peers. Waddell (1998) addresses this negotiation by bringing to light the importance of teen transformation: “The means by which this relationship may be achieved vary across an enormously wide range of behaviour, of different modes of defence and adaptation, from being the ‘conforming’, ‘pseudo-adult’, ‘good’ boy or girl, to being the ‘tear-away’, the ‘drug-addict’, the ‘suicide-risk’, ‘bad’ boy or girl” (p.126). Society ascribes similar limits to our understanding of adolescence: change only happens once, and there is only one possible result of the change—adulthood. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) refer to this view of change as a foreclosed identity status, “one in which an individual has committed to a life direction or way of being without exploring it carefully and without experimenting with alternatives” (p. 29). Foreclosed identity is in direct conflict with the idea that adolescent transformation is change that happens through experimentation with many different identities. By imagining and trying on differing selves, teens can explore who they are, who they are not, and the self they want to work on becoming. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) address the importance that imagining and experimentation play in transformation: “...they must imagine. They must imagine who and what they might become, based on who they are or hope to be, and in doing so they must experiment with getting there” (p.5). From this understanding, adolescent transformation includes imagining what and who we want to become but also experimenting with those imagined transformations. Adults can support teens in their imagined transformations by providing them with diverse and complex views of the world. Through this diverse and complex view of the world, teens can learn to think critically about what they want and who they want to be. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: adolescent development for educators. Harvard Education Press. Transform. (2006). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.


Adolescence: a Keyword Dictionary was created by graduate students in the Art Education Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), in the context of the course ARTED 5220: Psychological, Sociological and Phenomenological Approaches to Teaching, in Spring 2011. This course is taught by professor Karyn Sandlos To visit the website for Professor Karyn Sandlos, please follow this link: To visit the SAIC Art Education Department’s website, please follow this link:

Adolescence: A Keyword Dictionary