Models of Adolescent Transition. ERIC Digest.
by Borgen, William A. - Amundson, Norman E.
Adolescents face a range of developmental issues. Havighurst (1952)
suggested that two important areas included work and relationships. Levinson
(1978) focused on changing relationships and on exploration, while Erikson
(1968) commented on intimacy and commitment to goals. Super (1963) indicated
that exploring and crystallizing vocational choice are important to older
adolescents and young adults. What seems evident is that older adolescents
and young adults enter transitions with the goal of becoming independently
functioning adults, as they strive to meet evolving personal and career
related needs. Rapid and escalating changes in labor market and post-secondary
educational opportunities mean that adolescents now are confronted with
the challenge of meeting their personal and career needs when neither can
offer certainty or a sense of personal control.
TRANSITION FROM HIGH SCHOOL
A longitudinal study by Amundson, Borgen, and Tench (in press) found
that young people left high school unprepared for current career realities
and that both the career and personal areas of their lives were in a state
of change and uncertainty. At the end of their final year of high school,
young people in the study expressed optimism about entering the career
area of their choice and they expected to be successful workers in challenging
jobs which offered personal satisfaction. About half the respondents indicated
some concern about meeting post-secondary entrance standards.
Approximately 9 and 18 months following graduation, depression, self-esteem,
and anxiety were correlated with a range of perceived problems, including
money, lack of support from family and friends, internal attribution of
general transition problems, external attribution of career/employment
difficulties, and lack of job satisfaction.
At the end of the study, some of the young people were interviewed.
They were asked about factors that helped or hindered the post-high-school
transition. Positive factors included supportive family and friends, making
money, satisfying leisure activities, personal achievements, and educational
success. Negative factors included relationship problems, career confusion,
financial difficulties, unemployment, lack of satisfying work, lack of
post-secondary educational opportunities, and difficulty in adjusting to
post-secondary educational demands.
Developmentally, the young people were trying to meet personal and career-related
needs, which were in a state of flux and uncertainty. It was apparent that
a lack of progress in one area could have a negative influence on the other
(e.g., an inability to gain post-secondary educational admission or paid
work could drastically alter one's ability to move from being a dependent
adolescent to an independent adult).
AN EXPANDED VIEW OF CAREER COUNSELING: ENGENDERING COMPETENCE
The above study suggests a need for a broader view of career counseling;
counseling which recognizes the developmental needs of young people, the
influence of social and economic changes, and the importance of basing
intervention strategies on personal and career competence, all within a
context of diminished and changing opportunities for choice. In order to
address this broader range of issues, we have employed a competence model
with eight main areas (Amundson, Borgen & Tench, in press): purpose,
problem solving, communication skills, theoretical knowledge, applied knowledge,
organizational adaptability, human-relations skills, and self-confidence.
We also have developed a number of counseling strategies that facilitate
a smoother transition:
1. Developing Multiple Plans. Many young people leave high school with
a narrow plan of action and with few alternatives. They fully expect to
be successful with the plan and are not prepared to face any barriers.
Developing flexibility in career planning requires a sense of purpose,
problem solving skills, and several plans. Helpful strategies include visualization,
lateral thinking, assessing options, and decision making in a context of
uncertainty (Gelatt, 1989).
2. Self-Advocacy and Marketing. As young people move towards further
education, or into the labor market, it is critical for them to market
and advocate for themselves. With scarce opportunities and confusing bureaucracies,
there is a need to develop communication skills, self-confidence, organizational
adaptability, and effectiveness in human relations. This requires activities
such as mentoring, role-played practice, and ongoing economic, emotional,
and informational support.
3. Managing Changing Relationships. The emotional and social changes
adolescents experience can challenge young people as they try to cope with
barriers in the education system and labor market. Friends provide emotional
support, but this is a time when friendship patterns are changing. Parents
are needed for emotional, material, and information support, but, at the
same time, they need to allow young people sufficient room to develop their
own sense of identity. Coping with relationship issues can be facilitated
through communication, human relationship training, and problem solving,
which blurs most of the traditional distinction between career and personal
4. Meeting Basic Needs. Young people have a strong need for community.
Other central needs include having a sense of meaning in life, physical
and emotional security, and basic structure in relationships and living.
As young people mover beyond high school, many of these basic needs require
revaluation. In addition to changing relationships, questions emerge as
to how to make a living, how to plan meaningful activities, and how to
effectively manage time. To facilitate these changes, young people need
to establish a sense of purpose and understand how they are meeting their
current and future needs. Counselors can help clarify these issues. Without
this type of developmental assistance, young people often lack the resilience
to maneuver within increasingly competitive educational and labor market
5. Coping with Stress. Adolescence is a period of considerable stress.
While much of the stress can by minimized through support, persistence,
and active decision making and planning, there still will be times when
young people find themselves in difficult situations. Coping with stress
is associated with various competencies such as organizational adaptability,
human relations, problem solving, and self-confidence. Particular strategies
for stress management include relaxation techniques, managing 'self talk,'
focusing, and using support systems.
6. Coping with Loss. We were surprised at the extent to which young
people were influenced by various personal losses. These losses involved
death in the family (usually grand parents) and the experience of parental
separation and divorce. The impact of these losses upon career events was
considerable, suggesting a definite need for youth to develop competence
in handling loss and grieving. Counseling in this domain blurs many of
the traditional distinctions between the personal and career areas.
7. Bridging Programs. Many young people lack "hands-on" experience as
they attempt to enter the world of work. Many also are unfamiliar with,
and fearful of, moving into post-secondary education. To address this concern,
counselors need to develop work experience and co-op education programs
to help young people acquire the necessary experience. Post-secondary education
entry programs can also play an important role in easing transition difficulties.
8. Information and Information Access. The challenge in the information
age is not only how to gather information, but how to turn information
into personally relevant knowledge. Young people need up-to-date information
on careers, education programs, and market trends. They must also develop
skills to assess the relevance of information. Acquiring these skills involves
both theoretical and applied knowledge. Counseling strategies within this
domain include helping young people develop research, interviewing, and
critical analysis skills.
The breadth of the above components suggests that:
1. Career counseling needs to encompass a greater range of issues.
2. Personal and career issues are inextricably intertwined for young
3. The ways in which young people make some of their transition experiences
greatly influence their psychological well being.
4. Families and friends form a strong base for support in the transition
Amundson, N. E., Borgen, W. A., & Tench, E. (in press). "Personality
and intelligence in career education and vocational guidance counselling."
In D. H. Saklofske & M. Zeidner (Eds.) International Handbook of Personality
and Intelligence, New York: Plenum.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). "Identity youth and crisis." New York: W. W.
Gelatt, H. B. (1989). "Positive uncertainty: A new decision making framework
for counseling." Journal of Counseling Psychology, 36, 252-256.
Havighurst, R. J. (1952). "Developmental tasks and education." New York:
Levinson, D. (1978). "The seasons of a man's life." New York: Ballantine.
Super, D. E. (1963). "Career development: Essays in vocational development."
New York: College Entrance Examination Board.