Three generation project
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My subject for this interview is a 17-year-old, Caucasian adolescent male in a middle class Socio-economic status. He comes from a family of highly educated parents and resides in the Middle East Tennessee area, a small town in a rural environment. I have known this subject for almost two years now. He emigrated from Russia with his family in 2009 and settled in Tennessee. Since, my mother and I are also Russian speaking emigrants our moms found each other fairly quickly through mutual English courses in the local church. We are sharing a very friendly relationship between our families; spending holidays, birthdays and other happy occasions together. My first impression of my subject was that he was extremely shy and unsocial; however, after the ice between us was broken, he opened up to me and we shared a lot of interesting conversations.
Needless to say, I am approaching this interview from a biased point of view since I know and like this young man. However, I will try my best to remain objective and critical for the sake of this report. To conduct this interview, I contacted my subject and asked him to meet me at my house. To be completely honest, I had my doubts regarding this interview because I had to be extremely cautious not to make him feel uncomfortable with my questions; however, I feel that my goal of getting to know him a little more personally and be able to understand his age group was reached. INTERVIEW SUMMERY
My subject arrived to our meeting as scheduled, and even surprised me with homemade chocolate cookies. I started our interview by asking him to tell me about himself –his interests, hobbies and etc. Basketball turned out to be his favorite sports activity, which he often shares with his friends. Even though he mentioned suffering from asthma he said that it never stopped him from being active. I asked him about his childhood, and what kind of memories he had from that period of time. He briefly talked about him growing up overseas and his cultural background; telling me about how his life experience, in two different nationalities, had shaped his identity. He remembers his childhood as being as if it was a “black and white movie”, meaning he didn’t have much colorful memories due to their poverty I assumed.
As far as adjusting in the United States, my subject said that it wasn’t as hard for him as it was for his mother who had to take care of them both. As we moved along through the interview, I felt comfortable enough to ask him more personal questions about his romantic and sexual experience. I asked him to discuss about how puberty affected/or still effecting him, and what emotional or physical changes he went through during those years. I found out that my subject has had sexual intercourse with a girl from his school but they did not continue to develop their relationship. In regard to the physical changes with his body, my subject didn’t elaborate too much but mentioned becoming more masculine. As part of the emotional changes during puberty, my subject said he feels that his parents don’t understand him and he prefers not share his though or ideas with them to avoid any conflict. DISCCUSION
Since I do know this adolescent and familiar with his background, history, and his development up to this point of his life, I feel that there are several important points that must be mentioned. As I brought up earlier, my subject grew up in Russia, raised by his mother and grandmother. His biological father was never around to represent the “male role” or father figure in the family structure. Shortly after they moved to the States, his mother remarried to a man who become a step father to my subject. According Belsky’s (2013) physical developmental milestones for adolescence, my subject appears to be mostly on track. The phase of puberty, which is defined as a period of somatic and hormonal changes by which children become sexually mature, has evidently reached its peak when looking at my subject (238).
His voice has definitely deepened (since I knew him when he had the high-pitched voice) and his motor performance is very good being that he plays basketball, and drives a car. Moreover, as the author of the text states, my subject exhibits secondary sexual characteristics, which are the label for the physical changes that accompany puberty along with a growth spurt—a dramatic increase in height and weight (241). Also, my subject has had sexual intercourse during his brief romantic relationship with a girl from his school; which Belsky notes is often an important part of adolescent development (258). In terms of my subject’s cognitive and socio-emotional part of the interview and how it relates to the theory-based developmental milestones, I believe that my subject is at an adequate developmental level. For example, given his thought process, when I asked about a certain hypothetical project and the future, my subject was able to grasp these concepts and answer concretely.
Discussing his plans regarding college and his possible career is one example of Jean Piagent’s theory of formal operational thinking, regarding his own life. (Belsky 269) Likewise, my subject’s ability to reason about his past and tell me about his experience with relocating to a different country, shows his ability of abstractly expressing his thoughts (Belsky 267-8). He shared with me stories about the difficulties his mother went through when they first got the States; for example, my subject had to go with her to several job interviews as a translator because her English wasn’t very good. He said he never complained, but he definitely felt like the roles between them had changed, due to the fact that was often relying on him– instead of the opposite. Piaget’s theory on morality, which influenced and was expanded on by Lawrence Kohlberg, at the autonomous morality stage, adolescents realize that intentions, not simply outcomes, should serve as the basis for the judgment of behavior and that it is the manner in which an adolescent reasons about a moral dilemma that determines moral maturity (Belsky 271).
I think my subject exhibits high moral values when he talks about his family, in particular what drawn my attention was his step father, with whom he does not share a very close relationship, but has a lot of respect for him for caring for his mom. Following Piaget’s formal operation theory, David Elkind conducted a study where he determined that children that make the transition into teenage years become more socially conscious- exhibiting Adolescent Egocentrism (272). I have to say that I didn’t spot any sighs of that behavior in my subject; in fact, he barely revealed any self-conscious thoughts regarding his looks or actions throughout the years of our friendly relationship.
However, when I first met this young men, he seemed very unsocial and didn’t really talk to anybody, and when he was approached by someone he showed some distress. At that point I would probably mark him as a social sensitive adolescent going through storm and stress phase (266). Although, the author in our text also describes those teens as more apt to make risky and dangerous decisions, it was not at all the case with my subject (273). Continuing with the socio-emotional development, one of the things that was pointed out in our interview is that my subject has a difficultly expressing his thoughts to his family due to the lack of understanding from their part. According to Judith Harris’s peer group socialization theory, immigrant adolescents have disagreements with their parents that may go beyond the reasonable arguing and involve fundamental differences in world views (Belsky 288). This situation, in my opinion, leads toward the process of separations between him and his parents.
As Belsky states, “As teenagers push for freedom, they are given more decision making opportunities and establish a new, more equal, adult-like relationship” (287). Correspondingly to a research conducted by psychologists, Csikzentmihalyi and Larson, my subject loves his family very much and enjoys spending time with them; however, he clearly says that when taken as whole, frustrating emotions outweigh the happy ones when living with them (286). I can defiantly relate to that idea! Focusing on the social aspect of developing, a big potential pubertal problem is popularity. From the interview and from my knowledge of him, my subject has increasingly less issues with peer pressure and finding an identity. He speaks of feeling comfortable as been part of a group of his choice. Supporting this finding, Belskey notes that social standing is very important at this age because it affects teen’s academic/social paths, while being isolated from a crowd can lead to depression (278).
Consequently, my subject is a good student, and surrounds himself with a small group (known as clique) that shares the same academic interests as him (Belsky 289). By doing that I think he is reducing the risk of getting into trouble, because “…children who are not succeeding with the mainstreams kids gravitate toward antisocial groups of friends, who then give each other reinforcement for doing dangerous things”( 279). In addition, as Belskey (2013) mentions, school environment has a great impact on adolescent’s development because the academic and social growth is reliant on the ability of schools to fit their programs to the adolescent’s state of mind (284).Thus, for my subject experience in high school, he says that the content of the material being passed on is ok, but the way they’ve been passing it is boring.
Also, he notes that his school does not have any after school program accept of tutoring. So what usually teens are doing after school is over? Mostly sitting in groups next to the school–smoking and engaging in other unhealthy and unappropriated activities, he says. Interpreting the author position in this matter, one can see that the need for youth development programs for after school period of the day is essential for keeping the adolescents out of the streets where they usually get into trouble (283). Consequently, those teens might get involved in bad crowds- which usually are groups with a main goal of performing antisocial acts (Belsky 291).
In conclusion, I appreciated this project to a great extent due to its real and open minded nature. It is one thing to read about developmental theories, but it is a unique experience to explore those theories in real life and see how they play out. Also, this project was very beneficial for me because it helped understand better one of my close friends whom I like very much as a person. Conducting this interview and the following repot helped me gain a better understanding of where this person is coming from and what has led him to his current state of development. With that said, I personally do not think he represent the majority of the adolescence group. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that he have always been almost too mature for his age; never got into any serious troubles, treated his parents with respect as if he was an adult and dealt with very serious life changes in a calm way. Needless to say, that my teen age years were completely different.
INTERVIEW QUISTIONS (Transcript):
Maryna Yevsyukov: Do you play any sports?
MY: Which ones?
MY: In general, do you like to spend time outside?
S: Yes, sometimes.
MY: Doing what?
S: Playing basketball, walking around with friends.
MY: Do you work out, or do you just play sports to keep in shape? S: I just play sports to keep in shape.
MY: Do you drive a car?
MY: What type of car is this?
S: 2011 Nissan Altima
MY: do you have any health conditions?
S: Yes, I have asthma
MY: Do take any medications currently? And do you feel that your condition is stopping you from doing stuff? S: Yes, I’m using albuterol. And I never thought of it as something that stops me in life. I mean, I know I’m not able to run tracks but I never intended to do it either. Cognitive
MY: How would you say that you do in school, in general? Is it good, average or poorly? S: Good, school is really easy for me.
MY: What are your favorite subjects?
S: I think Math is Ok, but I don’t really have a favorite subject. MY: How long did it take you to learn and speak English?
S: At first I thought I will never be able to communicate with others in English although the school material was fairly easy for me because I could read & write better that I spoke. I think, it took me about 6-7 months before I started talking to people. MY: In general, how would you describe your experience of moving to the States? Was it difficult to adjust? S: It was somewhat difficult, but it seems to me like a bad dream now. At first, my mom and I we didn’t know anyone here and felt very nervous about everything, even going to the store was a big deal. Currently, after several years have passed, we feel it is our home and this is where we belong. MY: When you have a big assignment or a big project to do, how do you usually approach it? Do you wait until the last second or you rather get it done as soon as possible? S: I usually just like to do everything in order and gather all the information that I need, and then put it all together in my project.
MY: would you describe yourself as pretty organized in general? S: Yes.
MY: Have thought about your future? What you’re going to do right after high school – and then even further from there? S: Yes, I have thought about my future and in particular I’m thinking about going to college. I would like to become an engineer one day. Social/Emotional
MY: Do you like school?
S: Its ok I guess, I can’t say I hate it.
MY: What would u do differently in your school?
S: I would probably make classes less conventional because it get pretty boring after doing that for so many years. MY: Do you get along with your peers?
S: Mostly yes.
My: Do you feel popular in your school?
S: I think I’m popular among my friends, all the others don’t bother me. MY: Do you have a girlfriend?
S: No, not right now
MY: So you had one before right?
S: Yes, I had this girl from our school
MY: Didn’t work out?
S: No, we are just different
MY: Do you get along with your mom and you step father?
S: Most of the time yes, but sometimes she will get on my nerves and she won’t give up. My step dad is fine I guess, we aren’t very close but we don’t fight either. I usually don’t share with them any personal information because I know they won’t understand me, I guess because they grew up in different circumstances than I did. MY: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
S: Yes, I have a 3 year old brother.
MY: Do you feel different now that are not the only child in the family? S: Yes, he gets all the attention from every body, but that’s understandable because he is small child. MY: Do you miss your grandmother? I know she is still in Russia. S: Yes I do, I wish she could be here with us. I know she is struggling with money and I’m planning to get a job this summer so I can send her money. MY: Do you feel that your parents trust you enough to let you live your own life? Or are they worried and strict? S: I guess they do trust me to a certain point, but they would ask like a million questions whenever I leave the house or come back. We talked about me going to college and living on campus, I think they are ok with that.
Belsky, Janet. Experiencing the lifespan (3rd Ed.). New York: Worth (2013).