About this course

This course provides students with an understanding of cultural and political impact on how people grow, develop and adapt at different life stages. In studying this subject, students will be given the opportunity to reflect how their identities are embodied and how this embodiment affects their social role, and expectations and responsibilities as members of social groups. We will approach the topic from psychosocial perspectives and the focal point will be given to the biological and sociocultural transitions in the period of adolescence.

Lesson 1

Introduction class to the Human Development: Adolescence course, where we will take sources from different academic disciplines like sociology, psychology, and health sciences to understand how we grow, develop and become valuable members of the society. Before the class, don’t forget to create your identity card (see mine here).

Lesson 2

Countless studies in cultural psychology have examined the effect of culture on all aspects of our behaviour, cognition, and emotion, delineating both differences and similarities across populations. Culture plays a crucial role in human development as it affects how we think, act and interact. Before the class watch the video How Culture affects your personality, look back at your identity card from yesterday’s class and think about where do you fit: have you been raised in individualist or collective culture? Approach or avoidance culture? Have your identity card ready as you will explain how your identity was shaped by the culture.

Lesson 3

While we might think that we need to find our perfect self, the truth is that we evolve and change in all phases of our development. Identity is never situation dependent. Social theory defines three levels of identity: (1) the superordinate level (2) the intermediate level, and (3) the subordinate level. Depending on the context in which we give ourselves meaning to our identity we can choose a level to relate to as well as how important the difference means to us. Every identity is also embodied, meaning that with the way how we walk, dress, interact with other people, we communicate who we are.  The embodiment of our identities is particularly obvious in defining our sex, gender and gender roles. Before the next class read the text, Towards a clearer understanding of gender socialization in adolescence, watch the debate and write down three questions that might arise after watching.

Lesson 4

To explain how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combined create different modes of discrimination and privilege, in 1989 Kimberlé Crenshaw coined and defined a term ‘intersectionality’. For a better understanding of how exactly it shows in daily life, you might look at the fun guide, watch the video What is privilege, and read this interesting story of when privilege and oppression intersect. Before the class, self-reflect on your own identity and try to fill in the identity wheel exercise.

Lesson 5

Human development is about understanding changes over the lifespan: in physical structure, thought, and behaviour due to biology and experience. One of the most important theories on human development was elaborated by Erik Erikson and it consists of 8 stages. You can look at all of them on this PDF.

Lesson 6

Adolescence, defined as a life stage of a person between 11 and 19 years old, is one of the most signifying periods  for the biggest biological and psychological changes that can be summarized in 5 I’s: independence, identity, intimacy, integrity, and intellect. In this lesson, we will mostly on physical ie. body changes. Despite the fact that changes happen in so many levels, the most obvious and also the most challenging are the body changes. During puberty, our body changes so much, and we become very vulnerable to other people’s judgments and opinions. In this class we will be talking about our bodies, and body image.  Using content analysis, examine the ways in which bodies are regulated and socially controlled through media such as television, magazines, social networking sites, movies etc. Choose one of the examples that speaks to you and present it in the classroom. You might also get inspired by watching additional two short clips, Our bodies are not an image and Body positivity or body obsession.

Lesson 7

While adolescence and puberty might sometimes be used interchangeably, they do not describe the same process. Adolescence is a new term, added between childhood and adulthood after the industrial revolution. As such, it is socially constructed, meaning that it has a huge impact on social expectations and therefore guiding the behavior of adolescents. Before the class read the text Adolescence and ClockTime: Two modern concepts intertwined, revisited, reconsidered . Read the text, then write a short commentary essay (500 words) with the title: ‘What it means to be young’. In your essay, reflect on the following questions:

  • What does it mean to be young?
  • What defines youth?
  • How is youth different from other human development stages?
  • What does it mean that ‘adolescence’ is socially constructed?
  • How does being young differ from one culture to another? 

Lesson 8

Discrimination, recurrent constraints, harmful practices, and violence can send young people down a negative spiral. Empowering adolescents through active participation in social and political life can serve as a preventive intervention for many of the problems. Before the class, read the article Toward a Model of Adolescent Empowerment and answer these questions.

Lesson 9

For children entering adolescence, new experiences bring new risks. Violence, abuse and exploitation can take different forms from gender-based violence to bullying and digital harassment. Under international human rights treaties, governments are bound to protect and ensure the rights to health, life, non-discrimination, education and information, particularly focused on the challenges that adolescents face in daily life. To learn more, read The Rights of Adolescents and Sexual and Reproductive Health. Check out also #ENDViolence Campaign and choose on the problems listed in the webpage. Then collect some additional information, visual materials and create a poster or a short presentation (5min) with your proposed solutions to the problem.

Lesson 10

During our last lesson we will revise the topics of the course, look back to the learning expectations and fears, and respond to some of the last questions related to the main subject, adolescence. If you did not manage to finish your ‘campaign’ project from Lesson 9, please do it and have it ready for the presentation in the class. And, if you have any remaining questions, concerns or comments, please write them here and we will try to answer them during our last class.


Nena Močnik