Youth is a period that is between childhood and adulthood. It is a term that people define in different ways and also apply to different age groups and many people argue that youth is a biological stage due to the changes going on in a child’s body and mind during puberty. However, many argue that youth is social constructed, due to influences on children such as the media and peer pressure from their friends. Youth can be defined as a biological stage for many reasons. One of the reasons is that biologically all youth go through hormonal changes at puberty.
During this time young people will experience changes in their behaviour, tending to have mood swings and sometimes having lots of different emotions going through their minds. Whether they have the influence of others or not their attitudes towards different things will change and they will start to see things in different ways as they get older. Many teenagers will also go through times of being unsure about themselves, questioning things about their looks and appearance and might be irritable about themselves. All these things tend to happen no matter their influences.
However, youth is not just a biological stage and although children grow physically their minds also, nowadays it appears that youth may be more related to ‘transition’ and change. Transition basically means a period of change from one stage to the next and it can be defined differently in different cultures. Many cultures have special ceremonies to recognize these significant times, often known as ‘rites of passage’. Some examples of ‘rites of passage’ include Jewish boys and girls having a bar mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13, during this time they will learn more about their religion and prepare for their future as a Jewish adult.
Another example is ‘Suri Life’, during this time suri boys will become ‘rora’, which includes having to complete tasks within their tribe and there is also Debutantes, which are often present in rich American families and Dassanech life. Each different culture or society may choose to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood in their own unique ways. Another reason why youth is not just a biological stage is due to the influences certain agents of social control have on children, such as the media. Many people, such as the sociologist Neil Postman believe that there has been a disappearance of childhood.
The media has a huge influence on children growing up due to things like adverts being ‘everywhere’ and many adverts are giving out the wrong messages to children. Examples are adverts advertising make up being aimed at young children and toys being sold such as ‘Bratz dolls’ wearing inappropriate clothing, such as miniskirts and crop tops. The effect of this is young children, imitating the dolls’ fashions and wearing inappropriate clothes and also makeup at such a young age. Also small things like giving things like free vouchers to get a spray tan and magazine articles, saying things like ‘how to get a boyfriend’.
Things likes this can pressure children into thinking they ‘should’ have a boyfriend at the age, because that’s what is expected. Peers also have an influence on children becoming a ‘youth’. Even though peer pressure is known to largely to effect teenagers it also affects younger children. Many high street chains releasing clothing aimed at children as young as 8, like short tops, mini skirt. Many young children will wear these clothes and their friends might feel pressured to fit in and wear what everyone else is wearing, as it might be the ‘norm’ within their group of friends.
Many children might be pressured into wearing inappropriate clothes, when they don’t want to and be left out or even bullied by other people if they don’t wear designer labels or a mini skirt. The effect of things like this is in a way forcing children to grow up and producing a generation of ‘tweens’, who are young children, who are as young as about 8 or 9, who act a lot older than their age, wearing makeup and dressing older and essentially losing out on their childhood. Youth is also not a biological stage, because of the social construction of youth.
An example is social norms, for example their average age for getting married in England is 27, while in Nigeria its 17. On average women get married in Nigeria before they are even an adult and marriage is a big commitment and to give someone such a big responsibility they will be expected to be quite mature at 17, so might be seen as the end of their youth, which to many people is seen as having fun and ‘letting loose’ while in England it might just be the beginning of becoming a youth.
Another example is the law, laws are different in various societies. Giving people different rights and responsibilities, might make people feel older, by being able to legally do certain things. For example, in England you can drive at 17, while in many American states you can drive at 16. Also, in England people can legally drink alcohol at 18, while in most of USA, the law states you have to be 21. By giving them that legal responsibility, someone who can legally drink alcohol might be seen as ‘an adult’, not by society, but by other people their age.
In conclusion, youth is not just a biological stage, because although children will go through many hormonal changes in puberty, however youth can be said to be a socially constructed stage of life, due to things like the law and the rights and responsibilities that it gives us and also due to the influence of things such as media and peer pressure, which have to debates of whether children have a loss of innocence, as they have contributed to children ‘growing up’ so fast.