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Adolescent Observation

University of Wisconsin Stout

HDFS 325: Middle Childhood and Adolescence
Robin Muza

For my observation I chose to interview a young man named Joe. I have known him for

around two years. Joe is a senior in high school and is 17 years old. He is from a conservative

Christian home with a Caucasian heritage. I asked his mother for consent on Sunday, December

4th. I began my interview with Joe later that week on Thursday, December 8th. During the

observation, He and I sat in his familys kitchen around four o clock in the afternoon. The length

of the observation was about an hour ending right before mealtime. The only other person in the

house was his mother. She was in the other room reading a book. I have known Joe for two

years, he is the youngest brother of my best friend. We have had little interaction in the past, but

our interactions have been more frequent over the last few months.

Family Structure

Joe comes from a close-knit family with a strong Polish background. They are upper

middle class, due to the employment of both parents. Joes mother is the CEO of a small

investment firm, and his father is a lawyer. Joe is the middle sibling of three children. He has one

older brother of eighteen and a younger sister who is seven. He is closest to his older brother

because of there closeness in age. Their family is predominantly Catholic, although Joe is

primarily Atheist. This seems to be a large point of contention within the family structure. When

asked about his parents use of a united front in regards to family rules and decisions, (Theories

Continued, 5). Joe noted that they use this form in most cases, unless his father puts his foot

down. The family structure is setup with rather closed boundaries in relation to help from

outside of the family. Within the family and extended family, they are very open. (Theories

Continued, 10). The rules within the family were very straight forward, reflecting an

authoritative family structure. With developmentally realistic chores expected to be competed

weekly. Some of these chores included taking out the trash, and looking after his younger sister.

Physical Domain

Joess physical development reflects primarily an ectomorph body type which is defined

in our notes as a tall slender build. (Adolescent Physical, 10). He is currently growing into a

mesomorph with the progression of puberty. Defined as a proportionate or muscular build

(Adolescent Physical, 10). Joes lifts weights and wrestles. These activities provide him with a

large amount of physical activity, and muscle mass which are the main causes for his body

transformation from ectomorph to endomorph. Joe has begun to grow taller as a secondary sex

characteristic not tied to reproduction (Adolescent Physical, 12).

I asked Joe whether the physical changes of puberty happened before, after, or about the

same time as his friends. He replied with the answer of, around the same time. He then

elaborated on how it made him feel within his peer group. He stated that it all seemed to happen

very fast. He doesnt remember all that much about how his peers reacted to those similar

changes. It seemed that all of a sudden he was shaving and having to shower every day. I asked

him when he thought that these changes started. He guested that it was somewhere around the

beginning of 7th grade. I then went on to ask him how it made him feel personally. He stated, that

he became self-conscious of his face and his body odor around other people. He also started to

notice that his singing voice changed. Which is expected at this age of adolescent development

(Adolescent Physical, 12). When I asked him questions about his healthy and unhealthy physical

habits. He told me his healthy habits include working out and running. With that he stated that he

does have several unhealthy habits. For unhealthy habits he listed eating junk food and playing

video games. These habits are very typical of self-conscious teens at this age. This is reflected in

our noted by the notion that teens dont worry about health concerns because they are not

immediate (Physical Development, 5).

Cognitive Domain

I asked Joes about what he would change in his school and why. He says there are several

things. When I asked him to be more specific, he said that his school is quite small. He wished

that there were less kids that made fun of him. He also talked about how the cliques in his school

are out of control. He said if you arent popular you dont exist. Joes responses show the use of

imaginary audience, which is explained in our notes as, The belief that you are always being

watched or scrutinized (Adolescent Cognitive, 11). Specifically, when he talks about how he

and his friends are not popular and sometimes made fun of. Joe also shows signs of questioning

the norms, which indicates more clearly his level of higher cognition. We see this when Joe talks

about how the clicks run the school. Questioning the norms is explained as, a distinguishing

cognitive feature of adolescence (Adolescent Cognitive, 5). Moving on I asked Joe what he

would never wear to school. He said pajamas was one thing that would make him extremely

embarrassed. Which yet again shows Joe, considering possibilities, and hypothetical thinking.

Both of which are aspects of formal operational thought. (Adolescent Cognitive, 4).

When I asked Joe what he would like to be or do, He said, I would like to make a

difference. Make some sort of technological advancement that would mark me down in history.

This would be my own way of living forever. In this response we see Joes capacity for personal

fable egocentrism (Adolescent Cognitive, 10). It also shows the use of hypothetical thinking,

(Adolescent Cognitive, 6).

I then asked Joe, about his city, and if he would make any changes. He said that he lives

in a small town of around 2000 people. He doesnt like the size very much because its small, and

country. He then went on to say that he lived in Germany for a year in the center of a large city

which really changed his perspective on where he wants to life. Over all he stated that He wishes

there were more kids his age and more enjoyable things to do even a Walmart would add some

fun. In joes answers he displays is ability to use deductive reasoning, with if then thinking

(Adolescent Cognitive, 7). Joes answer also relates to his ability to think in terms of possibilities

once again (Adolescent Cognitive, 5).

When I asked Joes if his parents had ever given him an unreasonable curfew he replied

with the answer no. I then asked him if he had to change their mind what would he do. He told

me, first he would tell them I am seventeen. Since my drivers license allows me to drive up until

midnight the law says that I am able to stay out late. This answer displays his ability to

questioning the norms. Which is typical of teens in Piagets stage of formal operations

(Adolescent Cognitive, 4). This answer also reflects his ability to think hypothetically, and

reflect possibilities and there out comes. It says in our notes that, The capacity to think in terms

of possibilities (Adolescent Cognitive, 5). Is key to this stage.

Next I asked Joe if he could choose whether to finish high school or complete his G.E.D,

which would he choose and why? Joe replied that in his current situation he would finish high

school. Although a G.E.D is a good thing it will never hold up to an actual high school diploma.

He told me that he doesnt want to be looked at as less. This answer displays egocentrism in its

truest form. Which is where, Adolescents tend to focus on themselves to the exclusion of

others (Adolescent Cognitive, 8). His response also shows a bit of Imaginary audience, with his

statement of, I dont want to be looked at as less. These term is defined in our book as, The

belief we are always being scrutinized, watch, or critiqued by others (Adolescent Cognitive,


When joe was asked whether he thought it was a good idea for high schools to require

kids to volunteer at a charitable organization be for they graduate he said no. I then asked him to

elaborate why. He said that its a bad idea because a lot of people my age wont do a good job,

they will be forced and unhappy. If they are required, it would be more of a burden on the

organization rather than a help. In his answer Joe is displaying a capacity for if-then thinking.

Defined and a component of formal operations (Adolescent Cognitive, 6). I then asked joes to

argue for the other side. He said that a lot of teens would be able to experience something truly

cool. Not many teens have the capacity of caring to do something like this for free. I am one of

those people since I volunteer once a week, there are not very many though. This answer shows a

level of adolescent egocentrics. Defined as, focusing on ones self and the exclusion of others

(Adolescent Cognitive, 8).

I moved on to ask Joe if there was anything he could change about himself what would it

be. He immediately said, he would like to be taller. In this answer we can see egocentrism,

Focus on ones self rather than others (Adolescent Cognitive, 8). He then went on to explain

that girls only like tall guys, no one wants to be taller than their boyfriend. Joes is displaying

characteristics of imaginary audience in this case, we are always being scrutinized or critiqued

(Adolescent Cognitive, 11).

Finally, I asked joe if there was anything he would change about his relationship with his

parents, what would it be? He told me that, he wished they trusted him more. When he goes out

with friends his isnt allowed to drive or stay out late. He then remarked I dont know what the

big deal is, nothing is going to happen to me. This is a clear indication of an invincibility fable.

This type of thinking is typical in egocentrism children defines as, A belief adolescents are

immune to danger, or consequences (Adolescent Cognitive, 9).

Psychosocial Domain

After describing the three parenting styles to Joe, he decided that his parents are very

authoritarian. They use fair expectations and provide him with individualism, (process which you

develop a sense of self (Adolescent Psychosocial, 5). From what I know of Joe and the

interactions I have seen in the past I would have to agree with his decision. I then described to

him he meaning of a united front, which is Parents being consistent with family decisions and

punishments (Theories Continued, 5). I asked Joe for an example of this, he told me that his

mother and father both asked him about the divorce and what he thought. I then asked if there

were any expectations or behaviors which your parents have that bug you? He told me that this

father doesnt have much patience, and his mother can be quite a nag at time. These answers

display Joe starting to differentiate from his family and authority, defined in our notes as, The

process by separating self from families control and authority (Adolescent Psychosocial, 5). I

then asked Joe if he things the behaviors are important to them. He said yes they definitely are

especially if they are stressed out. My mother is so annoying and almost always in a bad mood,

she never listens to what I want. With that statement Joes displays a sense of egocentrism

(Adolescent Cognitive, 8). Joe also went on to say that he understands his parents love him and

their rules are fair. Which shows an understanding the importance of being a family member.

Defined as, being a competent family member children learn the reason for rules (Middle

Child Psychosocial, 9).

Moving on, I asked Joe, if he had a choice, would he rather go to a movie or discuss

important issues over pizza with them. He answers with pizza, because he really doesnt agree

with his family on a lot of issues like regarding religion and family rules. This shows that joe is

developing a sense of consolidation, A sense of independence, and individuality (Adolescent

Psychology, 15). Joe then went on to say that he would choose pizza because if his parents were

going to spend the money on him it should we on unhealthy food that he loves. This answer is

reflective of his desires and very typical of an egocentric teen (Adolescent Cogitative, 8).

I asked Joe to talk more about how he and his mother disagreed with religion. He told me

that she is extremely catholic, while Joe is more atheist. He doesnt agree with religion at all. Yet

it is an expectation within his family. Joes doesnt want to be religion, yet he is forced to go to

mass every Sunday. At this point Joes says he goes because he doesnt want to get in trouble or

cause a fight. These issues are simply avoided at all costs. This answer tells us that joe is in a

stage of Foreclosure, adopting a pre formed expected identity and not questioning the norms

(Adolescent Psychosocial, 7). Joe also displays a level of differentiation with these answers

separating himself from his family values and forming and Identity of his own (Adolescent

Psychosocial, 5).

When I asked Joe about dating, he said their rules are very strict. I cant date in high

school even if they know the girl and we never go out alone. Its totally ridiculous, all of my

friends can date its totally unfair. I still date though, even though my parents dont know about it.

This last comment, shows that Joes is in a state of negative identity which is defines as, an

identity developed that is the opposite of what is expected of us Adolescent Psychosocial, 8).

Joes views on dating also show as separation of values within his family unit. This is a sign of

differentiation where we, begin to challenge our parents values and advice (Adolescent

Psychosocial, 12).

I asked Joe about the values he shares with parents and friends. Joe explained that the

only big issues between his family where, Religion and political views. Joe often disagrees with

his mother who is a strong conservative christen. Joe on the other than is an Atheist liberal. They

often avoid this topic at all cost because of the fights that it can cause. Often ending with Joe

getting in trouble. Joes seems to be separating himself from is parents control by disagreeing

with their values. These actions display a sense of negative identity, which is defined as, an

adolescent developing and identity which is opposite of what is expect of us (Adolescent

Physical, 8). Joes then went on to explain his different views on dating. Which his parents

strongly believe that dating is to be left until high school is competed. Joes says that this rule

effects his relationships at school. He told me that all of his friends can date, so he feels judged

and made fun of. This comment leads me to believe that Joe, is becoming more of an isolate

member of his peer group, which is defined as, A person who hangs out by themselves

(Adolescent Peers, 3). I asked joe about his peers and he told me that they are really the only

people that understand me. Yet with the dating rule I am starting to lose some of my friends. This

is an evident example of the role of peers which help us cope with new environments, and help

clarify our values (Adolescent Peers, 2).

I moved on and asked joe how he would describe himself. He told me that he is a nerd,

interested in learning, friendly, outgoing, and considerate. He also views himself as overall

smarter than anyone else in the school. These descriptions display entrance into the practice and

experimentation stage, We can do no wrong, our knowledge is superior to ever one else

(Adolescent Psychosocial, 13). I then went on to ask him how his friends would describe him.

He told me that within his friend group, he is the leader. They would describe him loud, bold,

smart, and confident. This answer displays Joes ability to differentiate from his fears and family,

(Adolescent Psychosocial, 5). Yet It also shows his involvement in a click which is opposite of

what he said before. A click member is, one whos is an accepted member of a certain group

(Adolescent Peers, 3). Other kids in the school would describe his click as nerdy. His group is

not made fun of or picked on, but they all get good grades and only hang out with each other.

This comparative stamen displays Joes understanding of Individuation, Identifying more with

peers and comparing ones self to them (Adolescent Psychosocial, 5). Joe realizes that not

everyone in his school likes his friend, and he doesnt really care. This is a positive thing in

regards to identity. Instead of Joe using a sense of false self, trying to please and impress others

by having commonalties (Adolescent Psychosocial, 3). He is ok with his group and doesnt try

to be someone he isnt. I then went on to ask him if there are any people he would never hang out

with. He told me about a group of hicks, and pot heads at his school. He said I would rather die

than be affiliated with them, that simply isnt who I am. Here Joes is using a sense of possible

selves by identifying who he is, and who he does not want to be. Out notes talk about possible

selves by explaining it as, who we are in different groups or settings, who we are not and who

we would like to be (Adolescent Psychosocial, 3).

Lastly, I asked Joe what he thinks his he and his parents are most proud of him for. He

stated Getting a scholarship and going on an exchange year. I asked him to explain that to me.

He told me that he spent a year in Germany all alone as a foreign exchange student. He had to

learn a new language and live with a new family. This is an example of differentiation which is

defined as, we understand that we are psychologically different from our parents (Adolescent

Psychosocial, 12). He stated It was really hard but I learned a lot. He then went on to explain

how being a way for so long has made it hard for him to listen to all of his parents rules. He

explained to me first that the drinking age there is sixteen. Coming back to the states where it is

illegal has been very hard and causes much contention within his family. Joes struggle to follow

the rules after such an independent experience is evident of his own Identity and sense of

multiple selves. Defined as, The process of defining who we are within the teen years

(Adolescent Psychosocial, 3).


After talking to Joe for over an hour about his teen life and development, I cannot think

of any imminent difficulties from puberty in regards to physical development. He seems to be a

confident individual with a good sense of self. In his answers and the way, he describes himself,

it is evident that he has a high self-esteem. As a whole Joe avoids bad influences and unhealthy

habits. The only real unhealthy habit that could evolve into a larger issue is his consumption of

junk food. Yet this does not seem to be a pressing concern due to his activity level. The only

foreseeable negative outcome of his unhealthy habit is gaining weight which is very possible if

his activity level changes (Adolescent Nutrition, 5).

After reflecting on Joes answers I would have to place him in Piagets stage of Formal

operation thought. This stage involves the use of logic and analytical skills (Adolescent

Cognitive, 4). Joe demonstrates with his answers to the volunteering question in the cognitive

section. Joes states that He doesnt believe volunteering should be required because of the

possible reactions that teens may have. This demonstrates an aspect of the formal operation stage

of, Thinking in terms of possibilities (Adolescent Conative, 5). Another example from this

stage displayed in Joes answers is when he answers the question about the things he would

change in his school. He answered, I think it would be better if there were more things to do

after school. This is an example of using abstract, analytical reasoning (Adolescent Cognitive,


Based on my observation I would have to place Joe in Eriksons stage of Identity vs.

diffusion. In this stage teens reevaluate who they are due to the changes of puberty. This causes

them to question the norms and start to experiment (Adolescent Psychosocial, 2). Joes displays

several of these things in his responses. Specifically, when he talks about how his mother and

him argue about religion. This is an example of Joe questioning the norms. Another example of

this stage is when Joe states, I wish my mom gave me more independence. This is just another

example of Individualization at this stage, which his defined as, The process by which we

develop a sense of self (Adolescent Psychosocial, 5).

I would have to say, Joes is revisiting Eriksons stage of Industry vs inferiority. Joe

seems to be struggling with his sense of self after the separation of his parents. In our notes it

states that in this stage, we construct a sense of self that is continuously revised based on

others (Adolescent Psychosocial, 5). Joes says that he struggles with his beliefs on love and

mirage after there divorce. He states that it is hard to love his father after he left his mother

because of how much it hurt her. Joes could also be seen revisiting this stage due to the

confliction of family values. Erikson believes that in this stage, learning family values help

develops a sense of self (Adolescent Psychosocial, 9). With the conflicting family values of the

divorce Joe is struggling with his own sense of values, questioning love and marriage.


Muza, Professor. "Adolescent Cognitive Development" Class Lecture. Desire 2 Learn. Web. 11 Dec.


Muza, Professor. " Middle Child Psychosocial" Class Lecture. Desire 2 Learn. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.

Muza, Professor. "Adolescent Physical Development" Class Lecture. Desire 2 Learn. Web. 11 Dec.


Muza, Professor. " Adolescent Psychosocial Development" Class Lecture. Desire 2 Learn. Web. 11

Dec. 2016.

Muza, Professor. " Theories Continued" Class Lecture. Desire 2 Learn. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.