Journal of Nursing Education

Adolescent Literature as a Means of Studying Growth and Development

Bonnie Holaday, DNS, RN

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to describe a method of using adolescent literature to teach adolescent development to undergraduate and graduate nursing students. The novel written about, for, or by adolescents has existed in one form or another for centuries. A study of the history of books found significant literature for young people dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries (Huck & Young, 1961). In the past 20 years this type of novel has become recognized as a distinct type of literature, and it attracts a large audience of youthful readers.

Carlsen (1971) defines the novel for adolescents as:

... a book written by a serious writer for the young reader. The writer tries to evoke through his use of words the feelings and emotions, the triumphs and failures, the tensions and releases, that people in the age group of twelve to twenty normally experience. It is not a Sunday school paper story which sets out to teach moral truths or incite young people to lead a moral life. Actually, many of the better books do not offer any contrived or pat solution to the difficulties confronting the characters. Like good adult literature the adolescent novel holds up for the reader's inspection the whole spectrum of human life: the good, thebad; people's successes, their failures; the indifferent, the vicious, the lost. And as in real life there is no neat patterned solution to life's problems (p. 41).

Psychologists, nurses, pediatricians, parents, teachers, and adolescents themselves agree that during the teenage years, tremendous changes take place - physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Such changes necessitate adjustments that often result in friction between young people and their associates. For this reason, understanding adolescent development is essential for pediatrie and child mental health nurses. Courses in adolescent development can fulfill this need. However, adolescent literature can be used to enrich the study of adolescent development.

Theoretical Rationale

The idea that Ii terature reflects society did not appear until 1800 (Albrecht, 1954). The beginning, Albrecht suggests, might be Madame de Steel's "De La Littérature Considérée Dans Ses Rapports Avec Les Institutions Sociales," in which the author offered a social and historical interpretation of the literature of several nations. The essential function of this "reflection theory" is to explain social and cultural patterns of groups of people in a society. The theory that literature reflects society, mirrors life, or expresses society's views has been applied to studies of American history, and in studies dealing with the arts (Albrecht, 1954X Literature can also serve as a record of social experience, as an embodiment of social ideas and aims, and as an organization of social beliefs and sanctions. The most common conception is that literature predominantly expresses the more significant social values and norms of a culture (Yankelovich, 1984).

There are empirical and theoretical reasons for distinguishing adolescence as a separate period of development. In particular, a number of distinctive changes occur during this period of life. These changes may be classified as both biological and psychosocial (Conger & Peterson, 199OX Greenberger and Sorensen (1974) have identified areas of psychosocial maturity that need to be achieved during adolescence. These include individual adequacy (self-reliance, identity, work orientationX interpersonal adequacy (communications skills, enlightened trust, knowledge of major roles), and social adequacy (social commitment, openness to sociopolitical change, tolerance of individual and cultural differencesX

Others identify physical and cognitive changes, establishment of a sex role identity and attachments outside the family as developmental tasks of adolescence (Conger & Peterson, 1990; Galambos, Almeida, & Peterson, 1990; Kobak & Sceery, 198T? Adolescent literature addresses these issues and problems, and offers adolescents…

The purpose of this article is to describe a method of using adolescent literature to teach adolescent development to undergraduate and graduate nursing students. The novel written about, for, or by adolescents has existed in one form or another for centuries. A study of the history of books found significant literature for young people dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries (Huck & Young, 1961). In the past 20 years this type of novel has become recognized as a distinct type of literature, and it attracts a large audience of youthful readers.

Carlsen (1971) defines the novel for adolescents as:

... a book written by a serious writer for the young reader. The writer tries to evoke through his use of words the feelings and emotions, the triumphs and failures, the tensions and releases, that people in the age group of twelve to twenty normally experience. It is not a Sunday school paper story which sets out to teach moral truths or incite young people to lead a moral life. Actually, many of the better books do not offer any contrived or pat solution to the difficulties confronting the characters. Like good adult literature the adolescent novel holds up for the reader's inspection the whole spectrum of human life: the good, thebad; people's successes, their failures; the indifferent, the vicious, the lost. And as in real life there is no neat patterned solution to life's problems (p. 41).

Psychologists, nurses, pediatricians, parents, teachers, and adolescents themselves agree that during the teenage years, tremendous changes take place - physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Such changes necessitate adjustments that often result in friction between young people and their associates. For this reason, understanding adolescent development is essential for pediatrie and child mental health nurses. Courses in adolescent development can fulfill this need. However, adolescent literature can be used to enrich the study of adolescent development.

Theoretical Rationale

The idea that Ii terature reflects society did not appear until 1800 (Albrecht, 1954). The beginning, Albrecht suggests, might be Madame de Steel's "De La Littérature Considérée Dans Ses Rapports Avec Les Institutions Sociales," in which the author offered a social and historical interpretation of the literature of several nations. The essential function of this "reflection theory" is to explain social and cultural patterns of groups of people in a society. The theory that literature reflects society, mirrors life, or expresses society's views has been applied to studies of American history, and in studies dealing with the arts (Albrecht, 1954X Literature can also serve as a record of social experience, as an embodiment of social ideas and aims, and as an organization of social beliefs and sanctions. The most common conception is that literature predominantly expresses the more significant social values and norms of a culture (Yankelovich, 1984).

There are empirical and theoretical reasons for distinguishing adolescence as a separate period of development. In particular, a number of distinctive changes occur during this period of life. These changes may be classified as both biological and psychosocial (Conger & Peterson, 199OX Greenberger and Sorensen (1974) have identified areas of psychosocial maturity that need to be achieved during adolescence. These include individual adequacy (self-reliance, identity, work orientationX interpersonal adequacy (communications skills, enlightened trust, knowledge of major roles), and social adequacy (social commitment, openness to sociopolitical change, tolerance of individual and cultural differencesX

Others identify physical and cognitive changes, establishment of a sex role identity and attachments outside the family as developmental tasks of adolescence (Conger & Peterson, 1990; Galambos, Almeida, & Peterson, 1990; Kobak & Sceery, 198T? Adolescent literature addresses these issues and problems, and offers adolescents and others the opportunity to read about them. These books can help both the adolescent and those who care for adolescents and others to understand the moral, emotional, and psychological issues they face.

Selection of Novels

Guidance in the selection of novels needs to be provided for baccalaureate students. Master's and doctoral students can develop their own reading list. The review of adolescent novels can be divided into two 20-year periods, 1940-1960 and 1960-1980, and one 10-year period, 1980-1990. The period of 1940*1960 represents a time of social conservatism and strict adherence to traditional values; conversely, the period from 1960 to 1980 represents a time of social tolerance and liberal interpretation of traditional values. Literature from 1980 to 1990 provides a current time reference to the issues relating to recession, sexuality, racism, and technology.

The year 1960 is particularly important. The year marked the beginning of adolescent literature as well as young adult rebellion against society and its established values (Hodgson, 1976). Also, 1960 marked a renewed interest in adolescent literature as a distinct genre and "New Realism" as a major trend in this literature (Egofl; 1979).

Recommended readings for all time periods are listed in the bibliography. There are other sources of lists of books. Each January the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association issues a list containing the top 30 to 50 titles from the previous year, and every December the editors of the School Library Journal compile a list of the year's best juvenile books.

Selecting Areas for Study

The selection of areas to be reviewed needs to be identified. Faculty members may want to assign the areas of review to baccalaureate students. Master's and doctoral students should develop their own plan of study. Two possible approaches to the study of adolescent literature are discussed.

Havighurst (1972) has identified developmental tasks as achieving new and more mature relations with peers of both sexes, achieving a masculine or feminine social role, accepting one's physique and using one's body effectively, achieving emotional independence of parents and other adults, achieving assurance of economic independence, selecting and preparing for an occupation, preparing for marriage and family Ufe, developing intellectual skills and concepts necessary for civic competence, desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior, and acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide for behavior.

Read a selection of books from all time période and write an analysis of each book based on the developmental tasks listed above. How many of them appear somewhere in the book? How are they treated? Are any of them totally ignored? Does Havighurst's list of developmental tasks seem out of date? Why? Based on the books and developmental texts you have read, which tasks would you add to the list? Which ones would you remove? Could any of these books be used as bibliotherapy?

A second approach to studying adolescent literature uses the methodology of content analysis. Content analysis is a research technique used for the objective, systematic, and qualitative description of human linguistic behavior (Weber, 1985). The major units of analysis are words, themes, characters, items, and space and time measures. Kerlinger (1986) suggests that content analysis be used to study and analyze the frequency of various communication phenomena. A modified version of content analysis as described by Green and Stone (1977) may also be useful.

Descriptive analysis represents the possibility of collecting data that are described and classified, but not necessarily quantified. The purpose of descriptive analysis is to describe systematically, factually, and accurately the facts and characteristics of a given population. This method allows the reviewer to collect detailed factual information, identify problems, or justify current conditions and practices and make comparisons and evaluations. The content or descriptive analysis approach could be used with Havighurst's (1972) developmental tasks.

Another approach would be to use a list of widely accepted social values important in American society. Some of these social values include civic and community responsibility, education, freedom and liberty, honesty, initiative and achievement, respect for others, justice and equality, loyalty, sacredness of marriage, adherence to a moral code, responsibility to family, self-reliance, sexual morality, and hard work. Questions to guide the analysis of the novels could include the following: Which social values are present in the novels of the three periods? How are social values in the three periods expressed? Is there any shift in emphasis in values from one period to another? Are certain social values more prevalent in one period than another? To what extent do sex, social class, or education affect attitudes toward established social values?

Implications for Nursing

Developmental issues and the social values of adolescents are reflected in their literature. The books provide students with information about the presence, emphasis, and shifts in orientation of the specific values and problems that adolescents are exposed to and/or influenced by in this literature. With this knowledge, nurses can increase the effectiveness of their practice. It may also introduce them to books that can be used with adolescents as a therapeutic intervention.

Bibliotherapy may enhance or counterbalance beliefs, attitudes, or values, and this may assist adolescents in clarifying their attitudes, beliefs, and values. In this way, nurses may help adolescents make more effective value decisions, which in turn may help them function more effectively.

References

  • Albrecht, M.C. (1954). The relationship between literature and society. American Journal of Sociology, 61, 425-427.
  • Carleen, R.B. (1971). Books and the teenage reader. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Conger, J.J., & Peterson, A.C. (1990). Adolescence and youth. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Egofl; S. (1979). Mary Hill Arbuthenot Hevar Lecture: Beyond the garden wall. Top of the News, 35, 257-271.
  • Galambos, N., Al mei da, D.M., & Peterson, A. (1990). Masculinity, femininity, and sex role attitudesin early adolescence: Exploring gender intensification. Child Development, 61, 1905-1914.
  • Green, J., & Stone, J.C. (1977). Curriculum evaluation: Theory and practice. New York: Springer.
  • Greenberger, E., & Sorensen, A. (1974X Toward a concept of psychosocial maturity. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 3, 329-358.
  • Havighurst, R.J. (1972). Human development and education (3rd ed.). New York: Langmans, Green.
  • Hodgson, G. (1976). America in our time. New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • Huck, C.S., & Young, D. (1961). Children's literature in the elementary school. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
  • Kerlinger, F. (1986). Foundations of behavioral research (3rd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
  • Kobak, R.R., & Sceery, A. (1988). Attachment in late adolescence: Working models, affect regulation, and representation of self and others. CAiM Development, 59, 135-146.
  • Weber, R.P. (1985). Basic content analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Yankelovich, D. (1984). American values: Change and stability. Public Opinion Quarterly, 48, 2-8.
  • Bibliography
  • 1940-1960
  • Benson, S. (1941). Junior miss. New York: Doubleday.
  • Cavanna, B. (1946). Going on sixteen. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Daly, M. (1942). Seventeenth summer. New York: Pocket Books.
  • DuJardin, R. (1957). Senior prom. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.
  • Emery, A. (1950). Going steady Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Feken, H.G. (1950). Hot rod. New York; E.P. Button.
  • Goldiog, W. (1955). Lord of the flies. New York: Coward, McGann, & Geoghegan.
  • Jackson, J. (1947). Anchorman. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Stolz, M.S. Í1950). To tell your love. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Summers, J. (1954). Prom trouble. New York: Ryerson.
  • Tunis, J.R. (1942J. All American. New York: Harcourt & Brace.
  • Wright, R. ( 1940). Native son. New York: Harper and Row.
  • 1960-1980
  • Angelou, M. (1970). / know why a caged bird sings. New York: Random House.
  • Anonymous. (1972). Go ask Alice. New York: Avon Books.
  • Blume, J. (1973). Deenie. New York: Bradbury.
  • Bridgera, S.E. (1979). All together nom New York: Knopf.
  • Childress, A. (1973). A hero ain't nothing but a sandwich. New York: Coward, McGann, & Geoghegan.
  • Cleaver, V., & Cleaver, B. (1977). Trial valley. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.
  • Cormier, R. (1974). The chocolate war. New York: Pantheon.
  • Donovan, J. (1969). I'll get there. It better be worth the trip. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Guy, R. (1973). The friends. Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
  • Head, A. (1967). Mr. and Mrs. Bo Bo Jones. New York: New American Library.
  • Hinton, S.E. (1967). The outsiders. New York: Dell.
  • Knowlee, J. (1960). A separate peace. New York: MacMUlan Company.
  • Newfeld, J. (1969). Lisa, bright and dark. New York: Signet Books.
  • Zindel, P (1968). The pigman. New York: Bantam Books.
  • 1980-1990
  • Brooks, M. (1990). Paradise cafe and other stories. New York: Joy Street/Little.
  • Holman, F. (1983). The wild children. New York: Scribner & Sons.
  • Hoggins, I. (1987). The Elizabeth stories. New York: Viking Press.
  • Kincaid, J. (1985). Annie John. New York: Farrer.
  • Pei, L. (1986). Family resemblances. New Tibrk: Random House.
  • Peterson, K. (1980). Jacob have I loved. New York: Crowell.
  • OWeal, Z. (1982). A formal feeling. New York: Viking Press.
  • Sanders, D. (1990). Clover. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
  • Speare, E. (1983). The sign of the beaver. Boston: Hough ton Mifilin.
  • Strasser, T. (1982). Hoc* n' roll nights. New York: Delcorte.

10.3928/0148-4834-19930201-13

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