In this essay the concepts of sensitive periods and critical periods are going to be discussed, and critically evaluated in regards to identity development amongst South Africans. In doing so one should also take into consideration South Africa’s historical context. The period of Adolescence is when individual undergoes a set of physical and psychological changes, known as the teenage years, and begins the progression to adulthood. In other words the individual achieves psychological maturity and social maturity (Mwale, 2010). As a consequence of South Africa’s historical background of Apartheid, adolescence in South Africa and the identity development of nationals has to be carefully analysed as a result of such incidents.
In my opinion adolescence is a sensitive period and not a critical period for identity development in South Africans. Critical periods involve the notion of an impactful event in one’s life that happens at a specific point during development (Papalia et al, 1998). But in order to answer the question of whether adolescence is a critical or sensitive period for identity development in South Africa one also needs to look at the variety of different definitions of critical and sensitive periods. For example critical periods can also be “… a certain kind of experience at one point in development has a profoundly different impact on future behaviour than having that same experience at any other point in development (Bruer, 2001).” Both these definitions refer to specific events in someone’s life that has an impact in one’s development. As a result of this ambiguity one can definitely argue that adolescence is a sensitive period and not a critical period for identity in South Africans.
Having said that, I would like to argue that a child can be moulded to believing and acting as we wish, as long as actions that will impact his development, by either changing the environment, education, love, family, social relations, physical and psychological interactions with people, are acted upon during his development. It’s a fact, humans adapt and evolve. But it is more accurate to say that sensitive periods in one’s life are events that no human being can escape from if they want to experience a standard development. Therefore the presence or absence of a specific experience or event in one’s life cycle may cause an astonishing and intense influence in the development structure and function of an individual (Bornstein, 1989). I would also like to add the fact that sensitive periods provide with actual evidence of permanent experiences which impact ones development, nature, mature function and function. Moreover one’s a susceptibility to various kinds of experiences happens throughout their life span and it demonstrates the existence of interactional character of development. Also these certain experiences that we all go through all present convincing evidence that there are discrete phases in the life course (Bornstein, 1989).
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