Throughout the world today, the daily forms of adolescent social life and experiences have changed. As part of a gradual process associated with globalization, urbanization, new technologies, and the overlay of contemporary upon conventional institutions, the concept and the experience of adolescence have been altered. In an attempt to gain insight on how these experiences have changed over time, I interviewed my 84-year-old grandmother.
Although my grandmother attended high school, most of her age mates did not. School attendance in those days was mainly determined by a family’s financial situation, geographical location and even their race. Schools were structured very differently and the outlook towards formal schooling was very different(Buchberg & Rouleau, 1993). Adolescents quickly grew into adult responsibilities hence attending high school was not often a priority. Usually, daily school attendance was left to those who resided in cities while those in rural areas attended school only briefly each year.
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Additionally, the privilege of attending high school was reserved for adolescents who came from wealthy families. While in high school, my grandmother studied mathematics, English and basic science. In the present day, high school education is more accessible. Apart from being technology driven, education today is more competitive and there is the emphasis on applicable knowledge and critical thinking. A range of subjects including computer studies, physics, biology, chemistry and business are taught to adolescents in high schools today.
Life was very different during my grandmother’s time as an adolescent. In those days, most adolescents had numerous chores and other responsibilities to take care of and quite a great deal was expected of them in a family. Adolescents worked at least five hours daily and contributed as much as 30 % to the family’s income(Feather & Olson, 1969). Working was an enjoyable activity for the adolescents and they found it quite rewarding. Some of the work activities they were involved in include; candle dipping, weaving and butter churning. Most household chores such as washing dishes and cleaning the house were also left to adolescents in most families. In the present time, adolescents hardly ever work. A great majority of them fully dependent on their parents and contribute almost nothing to the family’s income. Most adolescents in this day and age have a negative attitude towards work. Unlike in the olden days, most families now have house helps who do all household chore hence there is little need for adolescents to perform household duties.
When my grandmother was a teenager, she got along quite well with her parents. She was very obedient to them and acknowledged that they were more knowledgeable and experienced than she was and hence she took all the advice she was given. Her parents, as well as most parents of adolescents during her time, did not place any restrictions on their children’s behavior. This was largely due to the fact that most adolescents were obedient and respectful. However, there were basic rules in most homes that adolescents had to adhere to. For instance, adolescents were expected to be home by a certain time. In the present day, most adolescents are defiant and think that they are more knowledgeable than their parents. Parents tend to put more restrictions on their children’s behavior such as dictating whom they should or should not relate with. Consequently, there are more conflicts between adolescents and their parents today than there were in the past.
Most female adolescents in my grandmother’s time as an adolescent wore maxi dresses which came in different designs. Fashion was also a concern to the adolescents and this was evident from the variety of dress designs and accessories such as hats that were available in drapers. Although today’s adolescents still were maxi dresses, these dresses are less conservative. Teenagers presently have a variety of other clothing to choose from including jeans trousers, bodysuits and miniskirts. Just like in the olden days, fashion is a concern to teens although it is more of an obsession in the present day.
Reading, sewing, fishing, playing and spending time with family among other wholesome activities were the main hobbies for adolescents in the olden days. Today, it is quite common to see adolescents hanging out at shopping malls and fast food restaurants or going to the movies. They are often out to have a good time but sometimes they engage in unhealthy, inappropriate or unlawful activities. In the olden days, a date was simply a social event, often with many other adolescents of the opposite-sex attending. Most adolescents did not go on serious dates while in high school nor did they engage in much physical affection with those of the opposite sex. They started to date at around 20 years of age. Most couples would go for coffee dates or visit a park. Today, most adolescents start dating as early as 13 years of age and often engage in physical intimacy.
Peer pressure was as much a problem to adolescents in the olden days as it is today(David, 2006). During adolescence, peers play a key role in the lives of young people and usually take the place of the family as the center of an adolescent’s social activities. Peer pressure was not easy to resist in the olden days because adolescents wanted to be liked and to fit in a certain group. This is also the case today. Due to peer pressure, most teens have been led into drug abuse and engaging in sexual activities at an early age.
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There are significant differences between teenagers of today and those of the olden days. Apart from having responsibilities, adolescents were more conservative in the past as evident from their dressing and social activities. The elderly think that most adolescents today are rebellious and less respectful of their parents. According to my grandmother, most young people do not spend their time in beneficial activities and are less responsible.