This is the story of Joe’s adolescence (name changed to protect privacy). Joe is of German descent, however he is the fifth generation of his family living in the United States, so he is completely Americanized, calling him an American would be more accurate than classifying him as German. His parents were middle class, not rich but, have enough money to pay the bills and have a little left over. Joe’s family is catholic, and he is forced to go to church, but the family doesn’t really practice the religion at home.
Joe went to the local public school. Joes’ family is a larger one; in addition to having a mother and a father, he has three brothers and three sisters. One of his brothers who is five years younger is profoundly mentally retarded. Joes Dad was a weird mix of parenting styles. If Joe happened to get into trouble, his father was authoritarian but if Joe stayed out of trouble, he was uninvolved. Joes Mother was quite passive and just went along with whatever his Father did.
Joe did “C” work in school and never got into any trouble. He was however a loner. Even though Joe had lots of family at home, he grew up pretty much alone. His father made enough money to pay the bills, but had to work three jobs to do so. As a result, the only time he saw his father was to be disciplined. As I said before, Joe had a retarded brother and he needed a lot of attention for therapies and so on. This took much of the parent’s time and didn’t leave much time for the other six siblings. Joe went through middle school pretty much meeting his own needs. His parents did meet Joe’s very basic needs such as food and clothing, but that was it.
For the most part he stayed out of trouble. So even though Joe had lots of people around him at home, he was isolated. When Joe had a problem with a teacher, he was told he must have done something wrong and that it was his fault. Joe quit going to his parents for help about any situation; this only re-enforced his tendency to be a loner. Joe’s parents also did not have time to involve Joe in any activities, such as sports, boy scouts or other extra curricular activities. As a result, Joe was not socialized with other kids his age and this resulted in Joe being socially inept. Joe never felt like he belonged anywhere; even at home Joe was a loner with time on his hands.
When Joe entered middle school he met new people. These people were into smoking, (marijuana and cigarettes) and drinking beer. Some of these kids came from single parent homes and lived near school. Since Joe had nothing better to do, after school he would go to these kid’s houses when no one was home. Joe and is friends did things like play drinking games and smoke marijuana. On occasion if girls were there, sexual activity did occur, although Joe never was involved in the sexual activity; Joe was too socially inept to approach a girl. (I guess in that way being socially inadequate was a good thing) Then Joe would go home, if his mother happened to notice he was late, he would tell his mother that he was helping teachers after school. She never questioned him.
Joe did only well enough at school to keep from getting in trouble with his Father. Joe knew if he didn’t cause any trouble he wouldn’t attract any attention. He preferred it that way, now that Joe was in middle school and twelve years old he was quite good at being a loner. His friends that he smoke and drank with weren’t really friends, just people to get buzzed with. Joe got buzzed a lot; he would go to school early and get high before school. After school he went to a friend’s house again to get high and sometimes drink beer too.
All through middle school Joe just floated through life minding his own business and just getting by, and doing whatever it took to be unnoticed. He also continued to use drugs and alcohol.
When Joe was fifteen he entered high school. In Joe’s school system middle school there were grades seven through nine and high school was grades ten through twelve. Joe’s parents were uninvolved in Joe’s decisions on what classes to take. He just took classes that involved as little work possible and met the minimum requirements to graduate. High school was more of the same for Joe as middle school was. Except for one major thing, his social life; Joe found that the drug and alcohol use wasn’t doing anything for him, so he quit using them. He got a job and now spent all his free time there. While not abusing substances is a good thing, quitting them was a bad thing in that he now socializes with no one.
He became more of a loner. He now had money and he liked that. When he turned sixteen he bought a brand new truck, and he was quite proud of it; although he still had no friends to ride in his truck with him. So he had money and other nice things but still was quite a loner. Now that Joe had a job his parents now expected him to really attend to his own needs. He was expected to pay for his own clothes, school fees, and so on. So Joe had a truck and money, but spent nights home alone. He never once went to a high school football game, dance or any other high school event that wasn’t mandatory. Joe, in high school like middle school, just floated through unnoticed. Joe did graduate high school on time, with the bare requirements for graduation being met.
Joe’s early adulthood was profoundly affected by his adolescence. Joe kept working at the same place he worked all through high school, he made what he thought was decent money so he stayed there, but then decide he needed a change. Were he worked was quite small, just a few other employees, so there was really no one there to socialize with. He then wanted to get a different job with more of a chance of gaining new friends and making more money.
However Joe doesn’t interview well because of his lack of interpersonal skills. He also had another problem; because Joe only took the easiest classes in high school and didn’t really apply himself he lacked skills to get many jobs and even failed the civil service test .He wanted to be different, to have friends but didn’t ever really develop good social skills. Joe to this day (he is now thirty years old) isolated and remains a loner. He thinks of how things might have been different, but believes he is powerless to do so. We will leave off with the story of Joe right here, next we will discuss what some theorists might say about Joe’s adolescence.
Let’s take a look at what some of the most famous developmental theorists might have had to say about Joe. A key part of Piaget’s theory was that learning and thinking requires participation of the learner.(Evans, P 238) New knowledge is not only transmitted orally but must be constructed and reconstructed by the learner. Piaget felt the learner must be active; the learner is just not a cargo hold for information. (Brainerd, P.36) The learner must take a proactive role in facilitating the information into cognitive thought. Joe wasn’t active about most anything he was quite passive. Joe took the path of least resistance through life. Joe as a result did not learn social skills or good academic skills.
Vygotsky believed that social interaction with peers was a key to learning.(Crawford,p 123) That interaction with peers in small groups and discussing things is a good way to learn. That to hear what peers are saying helps to construct and form your own meaning. He believed that a student could achieve mare by interacting with peers more than they could by themselves. (Saettler, p36) Joe avoided social contact as much as possible: he thought group work was worse than pulling teeth. In Vygotskys view, Joe could never have reach a good academic result with his lack of social skills.
Kolhlberg characterizes the second stage of moral thinking as a point where one seeks out the approval of others. Joe in his adolescence never reached this stage. Or if he did he lacked the social skills to carryout that urge; only now at thirty years old is he actively seeking out the approval of others. That I must say must be quite frustrating .
In the end Joes life has been stunted by a lack of socialization. As we see with the above theorists socialization is key to good healthy development especially at the scary time of adolescence.(Driscoll, p67) You need good peer relationships at this point to have a healthy adulthood. Will Joe overcome these problems associated with isolation? Only time will tell.