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Introduction to adolescent mental health
Introduction to adolescent mental health

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1.3 Social changes

In the opening video, Martha and Josie talk about adolescence as a time of great change and often confusion. Whilst they describe many of these changes as challenging, particularly the pressures that many friendships bring, they also reflect on adolescence as a period of excitement marked by increasing responsibilities and new experiences. During adolescence, social spheres are expanding, often coinciding with a move to larger schools and a greater range of options for leisure activities or paid work. There is a tendency to move away from reliance on adult role models (e.g. their parents and caregivers, teachers and mentors) towards an increased emphasis on striving for autonomy, individuality and self-reliance. Friendships rise in level of importance for many and young people rely more on the opinions of friendship groups for approval rather than parents and other caregivers. This need for peer group approval can however, enforce risky behaviours such as drinking alcohol or smoking cannabis (Kehily and Pattman 2006).

The centrality of friendships lasts throughout adolescence but falls off by late adolescence when the importance of belonging to a crowd or a particular group is replaced by the need to become part of a more intimate relationship. In the next activity, you’ll think about elements of adolescent relationships.