Preadolescence

Preadolescence, which beghis at age 8V2 and ends with adolescence, is a time for hithnacy with one particular person, usually a person of the same gender. All preceding stages have been egocentric, with friendships behig formed on the basis of self-interest. A preadolescent, for the first thne, takes a genuine interest hi the other person. Sullivan (1953a) called this process of becoming a social being the "quiet miracle of preadolescence" (p. 41), a likely reference to the personality transformation he experienced during his own preadolescence.

The outstanding characteristic of preadolescence is the genesis of the capacity to love. Previously, all interpersonal relationships were based on personal need satisfaction, but during preadolescence, intimacy and love become the essence of friendships. Intimacy involves a relationship in which the two partners consensually validate one another's personal worth. Love exists "when the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as is one's own satisfaction or security" (Sullivan, 1953a, pp. 42-43).

A preadolescent's intimate relationship ordinarily involves another person of the same gender and of approximately the same age or social status. Infatuations with teachers or movie stars are not intimate relationships because they are not consensually validated. The significant relationships of this age are typically boy-boy or girl-girl chumships. To be liked by one's peers is more important to the preadolescent than to be liked by teachers or parents. Chums are able to freely express opinions and emotions to one another without fear of humiliation or embarrassment. This free exchange of personal thoughts and feelings initiates the preadolescent into the world of intimacy. Each chum becomes more fully human, acquires an expanded personality, and develops a wider interest in the humanity of all people.

Sullivan believed that preadolescence is the most untroubled and carefree time of life. Parents are still significant, even though they have been reappraised in a more realistic light. Preadolescents can experience unselfish love that has not yet been complicated by lust. The cooperation they acquired during the juvenile era evolves mto collaboration or the capacity to work with another, not for self-prestige, but for the well-being of that other.

Experiences during preadolescence are critical for the future development of personality. If children do not learn intimacy at this time, they are likely to be seriously stunted in later personality growth. However, earlier negative influences can be extenuated by the positive effects of an intimate relationship. Even the malevolent attitude can be reversed, and many other juvenile problems, such as loneliness and self-centeredness, are diminished by the achievement of intimacy. In other words, mistakes made during earlier stages of development can be overcome during preadolescence, but mistakes made during preadolescence are difficult to surmount during later stages. The relatively brief and uncomplicated period of preadolescence is shattered by the onset of puberty.

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