Early Adolescence

Early adolescence begins with puberty and ends with the need for sexual love with one person. It is marked by the eruption of genital interest and the advent of lustful relationships. In the United States, early adolescence is generally parallel with the middle-school years. As with most other stages, however, Sullivan placed no great emphasis on chronological age.

The need for intimacy achieved during the preceding stage continues during early adolescence, but is now accompanied by a parallel but separate need—lust. In addition, security, or the need to be free from anxiety, remains active during early adolescence. Thus, intimacy, lust, and security often collide with one another, bringing stress and conflict to the young adolescent in at least three ways. First, lust interferes with security operations because genital activity in American culture is frequently ingrained with anxiety, guilt, and embarrassment. Second, intimacy also can threaten security, as when young adolescents seek intimate friendships with other-gender adolescents. These attempts are fraught with self-doubt, uncertainty, and ridicule from others, which may lead to loss of self-esteem and an increase in anxiety. Third, intimacy and lust are frequently in conflict during early adolescence. Although intimate friendships with peers of equal status are still important, powerful genital tensions seek outlet without regard for the intimacy need. Therefore, young adolescents may retain then intimate friendships from preadolescence while feeling lust for people they neither like nor even know.

Because the lust dynamism is biological, it bursts forth at puberty regardless of the individual's interpersonal readiness for it. A boy with no previous experience with intimacy may see ghls as sex objects, while having no real interest in them. An early adolescent girl may sexually tease boys but lack the ability to relate to them on an intimate level.

Chapter 8 Sullivan: Interpersonal Theory

The early adolescent's search for intimacy can increase anxiety and threaten security.

Chapter 8 Sullivan: Interpersonal Theory

The early adolescent's search for intimacy can increase anxiety and threaten security.

Sullivan (1953b) believed that early adolescence is a turning point hi personality development. The person either emerges from this stage hi command of the intimacy and lust dynamisms or faces serious interpersonal difficulties dining future stages. Although sexual adjustment is important to personality development, Sullivan felt that the real issue lies in getting along with other people.

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