Interactions with peers are one way a person creates or enhances a self-concept. How Jean reacted to social strife or conflict in her environment predicted her reactions to future situations. In addition to her interactions with peers, culture has an enormous impact on Jeans development. Jean has soaked up her self-concept partly from the media but also from peer and parental influences. Jeans parents provided her with a foundation set of values, beliefs, and methods of ethical reasoning.
Several social psychological theories apply to developmental psychology. Social identity theory, observational learning, attribution theory, and the theory of social schemas can all help explain Jeans unique developmental path. Although not overly impacted by the theories of social identity, Jean noted shifting her social affiliations frequently throughout her adolescence. One of the features she notices emerging in herself is less of a tendency to create in-group boundaries. At the same time, Jean notices that social cliques exert a powerful influence not just on her but on all her friends, who struggle to define themselves according to what group they belong to and what social associations they cultivate. Many of those group associations are based on ethnicity, class, and in some cases religion.
Banduras theory of social learning qualifies Jeans path of development throughout adolescence and as she makes the leap into adulthood. Research has proven the role of observational learning in shaping social behavior (Huitt 2004). Just as young children can pick up cues from their environment and model their behavior after peers, so too can older children, adolescents, and young adults like Jean base their behaviors on what they observe. Observational learning seems to negate a strong sense of self and would appear to suggest that Jean is not internally motivated. However, social and observational learning do not preclude an internal compass. Jean retains a strong sense of self and readily acknowledges the language, mannerisms, and behaviors that she developed because of environmental cues.
More recent research elucidates the way Jean and other young adults attribute their feelings, behaviors, and cognitions.
In fact, Jeans attributions have changed dramatically during the bridge between adolescence and adulthood. As a teenager Jean noticed uncomfortable feelings. She felt like people were persecuting her, or that the whole world was against her. As she matured, Jean started to take more responsibility for the events in her own life. She became less and less prone to attributing her errors to problems in the outside world and thereby gained a stronger locus of control. A strong person, Jean has only experienced what researchers call learned helplessness in certain situations. For example, she had a string of bad relationships in high school and developed a sense of powerlessness in relation to boys. Since then, Jean has learned how to assume greater responsibility for and control over her relationships.
Another theory that readily addresses Jeans developmental path is the theory of social schemas. Schemas are like models or paradigms. They are holistic belief systems that include patterns of thought, beliefs, and behaviors. Jeans social schemas have generally encouraged her to trust other people, as she has formed healthy friendships while in school and her relationship with her parents is amicable. Jeans schemas also illustrate how she feels about herself, characterizing her self-perception. Research into social psychology and cognitive development aptly demonstrate how Jean and other adolescents make the difficult transition into adulthood easier than others do.
Huitt, W. (2004). Observational (social) learning: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved 2019-05-14 08:18:27, at http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/soccog/soclrn..html
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Social Identity Theory.” (2004). Universiteit Twente. Retrieved Nov 18, 2008 at http://www.tcw.utwente.nl/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Interpersonal%20Communication%20and%20Relations/Social_Identity_Theory.doc.