• The Elephant and the Blind Philosophers (they each see something other than an elephant)
• “Youth as a social category has always been double-sided, encompassing both negative
and positive characteristics and stereotypes. If there is one stereotype in which youth,
simply by their very existence, are said to threaten the core fabric of society, there is a
flipside, in which youth are promised to revolutionize society and cure it of its past ills and
failures...Promoting youth, proclaiming their power, strength or virtue, or celebrating their
innate creativity or revolutionary potential is not inherently any more progressive, critical,
or radical –or just or accurate—than is condemning youth, complaining about youth,
disregarding youth or focusing on their shortcomings, problems and deficits. The challenge
for critical analysis is not simply to replace negative stereotypes of youth with positive ones
(or vice versa). It is, rather, to understand how and why particular kinds of positive and
negative stereotypes of youth …are mobilized by different groups in changing social and
economic contexts over time.” (Sukarieh & Tannok, 2011, p. 688).
• The Ontological Debate: Is ‘Youth’ Real?
• Cote (2014) argues that the “youth” question is an ontological one
• Ontology: comes from the Greek word for “being” Related to the study of being (i.e.
fundamental assumptions about what is real/ not real).
• What does Cote mean by this? Ontologically speaking do you believe “youth” is real?
• Nominalism & Realism
• Nominalism: The ontological position that social reality is the product of human
consciousness, particularily the symbols (names) humans ascribe to mental experiences
and social events. (From Latin, ‘name’).
• Nominalists see “youth” as a social construction (much like “society” or “gender”)
• Realism: The ontological position that social reality has its own properties, regardless of
human consciousness and social construction. (From Latin, ‘thing’).
• Realists see “youth” as a real thing.
• What are the benefits/ consequences of each ontological position as it relates to the
question of “youth?”
• Biological Approach
• Youth are often expected to have chronic emotional problems
• why is this the case?
• Helping professionals who work with youth have a skewed perception that may lead them
to believe that the majority of youth are emotionally distraught. • Idea that adolescence is a “necessary” period during which specific developmental changes
must occur if the young person is to become a “healthy” adult.
• If such changes do not occur, or if the young person appears to be in emotional distress,
the individual must be “treated” and/ or “fixed” (rather than looking to the social
conditions that might have created these problems)
• “nature” vs “nurture” debate. (psychologists, psychiatrists and others who approach the
“youth” period biologically come down on the “nature” side of the debate).
• G. Stanley Hall, “storm and stress” theory
• Hall is also known as “the father of a scientific ‘psychology of adolescence’
• Published Adolescence in 1904 and his ideas continue to hold influence today.
• Argued that each person’s life course repeats the evolutionary history of the human
species, and that, genetically, every human must go through a period of adolescent
• Though his theories have been disproved, we continue to hear references to his ideas (i.e.
“raging hormones”) throughout Western society today.
• Some researchers continue to argue that the “adolescent brain” is different in significant
ways from the “adult brain.” This myth is often perpetuated by the media who may view
biological studies as being more ‘scientific’.
• The psychiatric system today has embraced this biological-evolutionary view, and tends to
view adolescence itself as a “disorder”.
• Discussion: What are the potential consequences of understanding the “youth” period in
• Anthropological View
• Margaret Mead published Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)
• Proved that “adolescent turmoil” was not universal and that difficulties associated with
adolescence in North America were culturally-induced/ caused by the social environment.
• Many other researchers have since conducted cross-cultural studies and come out with
similar findings: that social factors (and not biology) are responsible for the widespread
emotional turmoil found in Western societies.
• “Sociologically, adolescence is the period in the life of a person when the society in which
s/he functions ceases to regard him/her as a child and does not accord to him/her full adult
status, roles and functions.” (Hollingshead, 1949). • Sociologists generally agree that adolescence is a product of social expectations associated
with the normative structure of a given culture. These expectations are imposed upon
individuals by forces outside their control.
• But sociologists disagree when it comes to explaining how social structures are came to be
• Conservative: Functionalism, Social Evolution Vs. Critical: Political Economy (Macro), Symbolic
• Functionalist vs.