• ‘With whom shall I identify?’: Nineteenth-Century Representations of Parental Influences and Adolescent Identity Formation

      Ravenscroft, Michelle D. (University of Chester, 2018-11-26)
      This inter-disciplinary research considers cultural influences, such as religion and education, on adolescent identity formation and parental role-models in nineteenth-century texts. Definitions and representations of constructed identities are explored in relation to the influence of cultural factors using twentieth-century psychological, sociological and psychiatric theories surrounding adolescent and parental identity. Representations of adolescent experiences and parental influences within the home and society reflect changing attitudes towards shifting gender boundaries throughout the century. The conflict of changing family dynamics, in relation to parental roles and authority, are also considered with regards to how these influence the adolescent during this critical life-stage. The conflict and crisis involved in the process of adolescent identity formation is linked to the need for the adolescent to identify with a successful role-model. The analysis of representations of socially constructed role-models in the nineteenth-century suggests there are many factors that determine the success or failure of an adopted identity. This research supports the theory that the concept of a problematic adolescence is not borne out of the inability of adolescents to form an identity, rather the inability of nineteenth-century parents to provide a stable, positive and successful role-model, and the adolescent’s increasing awareness of this instability and their need for an individual identity. Representations support the argument that the growing pressure of individual responsibility for life-choices throughout the nineteenth century also increases the conflict and crisis of the adolescent experience and creates an adolescent desire for autonomy to realise their full potential.