Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum
Chapter Nine: Adolescent Identity and Substance Use Prevention
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MICHAEL L. HECHT
Adolescence is a time of growth and attendant risks such as substance use, criminal activity, and poor school performance. As a result, this developmental period presents unique challenges for the health promotion community, including substance use prevention, some of which are associated with identity issues. Both popular and developmental research literature paint adolescence as a key period in identity development. While it seems clear that much of who we are is shaped by early development and identity, development generally continues at least into the 20s (Arnett, 2000) and probably throughout the lifespan (Logan, Ward, & Spitze, 1992). Both physical changes (e.g., onset of puberty) and social changes (e.g., increased freedom of movement and peer associations) that occur during adolescences are pivotal in long-term life directions. Indeed, one of the central tasks of the teen years is to figure out who you are and who you can become in the important social domains of adolescence—school/work, family, and friends (Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2006). This is reflected in iconic cultural representations such as films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Breakfast Club, and, more recently, the Wimpy Kids and the Twilight series, as well as televised representations like the Cosby Show and Pretty Little Liars. And, of course, we followed Harry Potter through his tween and teen years. As early as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause these media representations largely present this period as emerging identity often rife with angst and struggle.
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