Mental Health and Celebrity Teens
Being a teenager is a difficult process under the best conditions, but when you are a celebrity at the same time it could be a daunting task. And yes, we’re talking most recently about Justin Bieber.
Lots of changes happen to the teenage body and brain at this stage in development, and while the body of a teenager takes the shape and function of the adult, the brain does not complete its functional development till later, around the early twenties.
Adolescence is marked by a distinct psychological development as well. This is the age when the sense of identity develops, and is marked by struggles, figuring out limitations as well as opportunities. This development period is marked by developing a sense of identity, essentially a ‘who am I?’ being the question, and that the end of adolescence hopefully provides an answer.
Erickson’s defines the period of 12-20 years the “identity vs. role confusion’ period, when adolescents either establish their basic and social and occupational identity or they remain confused about the role they will end up playing as adults.
In order to develop that sense of identity, teenagers are overly preoccupied with how they are perceived by their ‘imaginary audience’, as most teenager’s think of themselves as being on a stage with all their actions and appearance constantly scrutinized. When that teenager is actually on a stage they often develop an aggravated self-inflated perception of themselves or a perception with poorer self-esteem.
Adolescence is also a period of developing increased independence from parents and adequate capacities for self-care and regulation. When the parents are not present, as can be the case with teen celebrities more often than not, self-care and regulation are not adequately developed.
When a teen achieves a celebrity status, like Justin Bieber at age 13, many of the developmental tasks could fall out of sync. Being cast in an adult role when the psychological development is not fully accomplished could exacerbate some of the risk taking behaviors characteristic of this period of time such as the experimentation with drugs and alcohol. While the teenager tries to distance himself from the parents, parents are very important in helping them hold a firm balance, without being overly permissive, harshly authoritarian or indifferent. Being a celebrity when money is limitless, and possibilities are boundless puts the teenager at odds in terms of exercising his own boundaries, when the parental influence is markedly diminished.
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