ERIC Number: EJ950234
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan
Reference Count: 52
"All Gas and No Brakes!": Helpful Metaphor or Harmful Stereotype?
Payne, Monica A.
Journal of Adolescent Research, v27 n1 p3-17 Jan 2012
Stanley Hall's (1904) description of adolescence as a time "suggestive of some ancient period of storm and stress when old moorings were broken and a higher level attained" is arguably one of developmental psychology's most vivid and powerful metaphors. Its relatively insignificant contribution to Hall's treatise (Arnett, 2006), the early demise of its recapitulation theory underpinnings, and the later opposition of many researchers notwithstanding, it survives a century of academic challenge to remain, in Robert Epstein's words, "a life-size, three-dimensional, rock-solid image of Teen in Turmoil." In this essay, the author considers the concurrent emergence of a new generic metaphor for the adolescent condition and suggests that, given the familiar notions of a poorly controlled (or even totally out-of-control) state of being it invokes, its endorsement by "teen brain" supporters seriously compromises assertions of even-handed promotion of adolescents' strengths and weaknesses. Of course the riposte to this might be that metaphors matter much less than "hard facts," and such imagery should be seen merely as helpful (even mildly humorous) conceptual shorthand for complex science. Do a few "mere words," therefore, truly warrant special attention? Believing they "do," and that this metaphor constitutes a significantly undesirable contribution to the way Western adults are being persuaded to think and talk about young people, the author first offers an eclectic sampling of its use and then considers its potential influence with reference to the general role of metaphor in constructing developmental understandings.
Descriptors: Figurative Language, Developmental Psychology, Stereotypes, Adolescents, Developmental Stages, Brain, Imagery, Sampling, Role, Adolescent Development, Stress Variables, Scientific Research, Language Usage
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
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