Adolescent adjustment problems and school counselling services as percieved by adolecents, educators and parents

Master's Thesis, 2008

120 Pages, Grade: A







5 Bibliography



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1 Introduction & Review of Literature

Introduction and Review of Literature

When a developmental stage of adolescence is described as a stage of turbulence, a ‘period of storm and stress’, of emotional instability, and a problem age, exploring the truth behind such statements generates interest. The complex and dynamic nature of current social context is posing greater challenges, which further justifies the need to take a closer look into the world of adolescents as well as understanding the manner in which they face various challenges.

Adults commonly tell young people that the teenage years are the, “best years of your life”. The rosy portrayal highlights happy groups of high school students energetically involved at a dance or a sporting event, or a bright-eyed couple holding hands or sipping soda at a restaurant in an urban setting. This is only part of the picture. Life for many young people is a painful tug of war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, friends as well as oneself (Gupta, 2003). Growing up, negotiating a path between gaining independence on one hand and reliance on others on the other hand is a tough business. It leads to stress if adolescents are ill equipped to cope, communicate, and solve problems (Walker, 2002).

The period of adolescence

Derived from a Latin verb ‘ adolescere ’, means, “to grow to maturity” (Dacey and Kenny, 1997) adolescence is a period in an individual’s life between childhood and adulthood. It is a period of human development, during which a young person moves from dependency to independence and from being part of a family group to being part of a peer group and to standing alone as an adult in the years to come. This lengthy transitional state, which may last a decade or more is a distinctive period in which a youngster is no longer a child nor fully adult, but partakes some of the challenges, privileges and expectations of both epochs (King, cited in Lewis, 2002). Bhattacharya (1985) has emphasized that adolescents face many struggles and conflicts during this period which makes their reactions sometimes misunderstood by parents and friends. With confusion and unresolved conflicts, many adolescents may often find themselves trapped in situations which they are unable to cope with effectively, thereby becoming mentally strained.

Traditional views present the period of adolescence almost synonymously with the concept of ‘storm and stress’. This concept originated with German writers of the nineteenth century such as Schiller and Goethe but the first person to apply this notion to adolescence was Hall in his classic text of 1904 (cited in, Coleman and Hendry, 1999). However, cultural variations do exist and the notion of storm and stress is not universal. There are different ways in which adolescence is experienced. Mcad challenged the concept of turmoil on the basis of her observations of adolescent girls in Samoa, a south pacific island (Schlegel and Barry, 1991).

Anna Freud (1958) stated that “ every step forward in growth and maturity brings with it not only new gains but also new problems”, and conceived of this period as a “ developmental disturbance” with characteristics of internal conflict, psychic disequilibrium and erratic behavior and associated sexual maturation as the source of this turmoil (cited in Carol, 1975, p. 61). However some degree of anxiety and the experience of tension are likely to be related to the need to cope with maturational changes and to develop rapidly a new range of capabilities, particularly since there are no clear cut rules on how to progress to adulthood or to decide when this process is complete (Parry-Jones, cited in, Rutter and Hersob, 1985).

Adolescence is a time for change as the young person faces many new experiences. Depending on the cultural contexts, the various environments in which the adolescent moves are likely to present new and unexpected situations that require responses that the adolescent may have never previously used. Dealing with the unexpected and being required to use new untested responses is likely to raise anxiety and cause stress in the young person. A report in a national daily (“Being cool doesn’t mean going berserk”, 2003) presenting data on a school based pilot project on holistic health called ‘Expressions’ states that 10-15% of school-going children in the age group of 5-17 years suffer from symptoms of maladjustment and emotional difficulties. The same article quotes a principal of a public school, “to succeed in today’s world you really have to be somebody. You don’t have to be good; you have to be so good, as there are so many people who are so good”. This expectation makes for a stressed generation.

Causes and correlates of stress among adolescents

The changing body and appearance

The physical self is a major concern in adolescence as compared to any other period of life because new sensations, features and body proportions start emerging. Adolescence begins with the well-defined maturation event called puberty. Although this is a normal maturation process it can cause difficulties for the individual especially, if a young person is precocious in puberty or if puberty is significantly delayed (Gerald & Gerald, 1999). Rogers (1977) stated that because of these dramatic body changes, the adolescent body becomes an important symbol itself in which the adolescent invests emotions of security, self worth, and competence. The adolescent’s body is also a representation of the adolescent’s self (King, cited in Lewis, 2002). Hence not surprisingly, teenagers spend great time, energy, and money trying to make their appearance conform to some perceived ideal. Many adolescents become anxious about their appearance if their development does not proceed at the same rate as that of their peers.

According to Valsiner (2000), passing through the speeded-up biological maturation period challenges the young person’s personal-cultural structure, and this result in a creative turmoil within the child’s personal world. Some cultures confer elaborate rites of passage at puberty, which may include ceremonies, rituals, and tests of physical endurance, scarification, or changes in adornment (Muzi, 2000; Schlegel & Barry, 1991). After that particular event, the adolescent is considered as a full-fledged member of the adult community and is expected to participate in adult society and behave according to culturally prescribed norms.

The stressful change hypothesis implies that the effects of the pubertal transition are both immediate and transient, making individual adaptation particularly difficult during times when the biological change is most rapid. There is strong evidence that early physical maturation is significantly associated with elevated stressful symptoms among girls (kim, Ge, Brody, Conger, Simons, Gibbons & Cutrona, 2003). Adolescent girls tend to be even more concerned about their physical development than boys as for girls their outward appearance and their inner self-image are often more closely bound together than for males. The role of media cannot be ignored in this context (Sharma, 1999) as it’s here that adolescents find ideals to admire and emulate. Girls aspire to be very slim and shapely while boys want to be tall and muscular, as that is what they perceive being projected in the media.

The challenges within the family

Family environment and the related factors also have the potential of causing stress for adolescents. This primarily includes the family’s style of functioning. Some families are very rigid and others laissez-faire, some families are very enmeshed and others are disengaged (McMaster model, cited in, Geldard & Geldard, 1999). Depending on the forms of functioning adopted, different families present different conditions, rules, and expectations regarding behaviour and autonomy. Dealing and adapting to these is often a challenging job for adolescents. According to National Mental Health Association, Virginia, one out of five teenagers suffer from clinical depression, and the most important factor being the parental and social demands that are converting everyday stress into a mental health illness (“Teens battle a bad case of the blues”, 2003).

Parenting style is another important factor related to adolescent stress. If parenting style is the one that inhibits change and tries to maintain the same structure that was applied when the adolescent was a child then the adolescent will struggle to make the changes that are required to move towards adulthood. Parental communication styles are also very important. Crow & Crow (1965) emphasized that the differences of opinion between parents and their son or daughter may lead to inner conflicts on the part of the young person. As dependence on parents becomes less acceptable to adolescents, they turn increasingly to peers for companionship, advice, support, and intimacy. With adolescence the communicative, supportive, and intimate aspects of friendship take on increased importance.

When the adolescent’s talents are nurtured, and the best of educational and occupational opportunities are provided, the whole family takes pride in their achievements. Yet, if the youngster takes a step contrary to the family’s expectations, it may be seen as a selfish move, and such conflicting and contrasting characteristics of the adolescent’s family may often pose a dilemma for the adolescent mounting the amount of stress.

The quality of the parental relationship, whether the parents are together, separated, or divorced is of major importance to the adolescent, and may create numerous problems as a result of the altered life situation (Muzi, 2000). Other issues like parental alcoholism, domestic violence or financial problems also have a significant impact on adolescent development and are potential sources for raising stress among adolescents.

Problems are also faced by adolescents who grow up in a society where their own family cultural background differs from the major cultural influences of their environment and can lead to conflicts in culturally determined social and moral values and exposure to conflicting beliefs, attitudes and behaviours (Bhattacharya, 1985).

Beyond the family: Peers, school and others

Educational problems loom large in the lives of adolescents. Problems relating to school failure, study habits, pupil-teacher relationship, and the like apparently appear in the lives of many high school boys and girls. According to Geldard & Geldard (1999), these stresses are likely to be intensified when there is conflict with parents. Educational environment may sometimes be stressful for adolescents as the students have little power and authority, both being issues that are very adverse. In response to particular stresses, some adolescents either refuse to go to school or become truant. Difficult family relationships have often been cited as the underlying cause for school refusal (Garrison & Garrison, 1975).

Achievement in school is equated with future success in life, and adolescents are under constant stress to perform well. Sometimes their leisure time activities may be curtailed to increase their study hours. Verma & Saraswati (2002) found signs of academic stress, and competitive individualism based on achievement among Indian students. Also scholastic underachievement was found to be inversely related to mental health, highlighting the importance accorded to school success by both teachers, and parents. Education of children from middle social class is prioritized as a prime goal for both sexes by parents and is clearly seen as a pathway to success in life, while for lower social class it is associated with assuming family responsibilities. Studies on Chinese and Japanese adolescents have found no relation between stress and academic achievements. Whereas in contrast, U.S. students have reported greater feelings of stress. (Cited in Brown, Larson and Saraswati, 2002).

Making friends and maintaining lifelong ties is a normal phenomenon, more so during the turbulent years of adolescence (Verma, 1995). Peer group assumes greater importance, owing to the greater degree of acceptance it gives and the amount of time spent in the company of the peers (Garrison & Garrison, 1975; Verma, 1995). Adolescents who do not find a minimal degree of acceptance at this time in their lives are likely to suffer lasting consequences of isolation, low self-esteem and stress. Conger (1977) stated that the importance of the peer group during adolescence, motivation for conformity to the values, customs and fads of peer culture increases during this time. There appears to be a rapid rise in conformity needs and behaviours. A great deal of emphasis is placed on social acceptance, i.e., finding a group of associates with whom the youth best achieves self-confidence. Most adolescents tend to devote a great deal of time in developing characteristics which they feel are desirable in themselves, and are constantly striving for a status within the peer group (Bhattacharya, 1985).

The class-based and gendered nature of adolescence in India is most evident in peer relations. The peer groups play a less significant role in the lives of most Indian adolescents. Saraswati (1999) compared the role and the amount of time spent with peers across socioeconomic status. It was evident that the role of peers was nearly absent for adolescents of lower class and the exceptions being the rich with leisure time. Research studies on Indian adolescents have shown that there are certain domains in which adolescents are guided by the family’s expectations. These include their moral and religious beliefs, conduct in public, ideas about education and marriage and occupational aspirations. In domains such as trends in physical appearance, leisure time activities, and heterosexual communication the peers are followed.

However, sometimes the price of admission to a ‘cool’ peer society for many adolescents may lead to involvement with smoking, alcohol and drugs. For some teens, substance abuse provides temporary relief from stress. However, in the long run the physical and psychological ups and downs end up increasing, not decreasing, the level of stress they feel (Needlman, 2001).

Relationship with the opposite sex

Adolescents continually face issues which are likely to be stressful for them concerning changes in relationships. As the adolescent matures, relationships with parents, siblings, peers and those in position of authority all undergo change. Adolescence sees the epochal development of experiencing sexual attraction towards others (King, cited in Lewis, 2002), and it is natural for adolescents to be attracted to peers of the opposite sex. However, these relationships may well be temporary, unstable and vulnerable because adolescents are in a stage of exploration and experimentation.

In India, heterosexual interactions are generally discouraged, especially once the girl is near puberty (Saraswati 1999). This applies even to interactions between father and daughter, brother and sister, and among cousins of the opposite sex. Schlegel & Barry (1991) argue that this is the way of achieving sexual separation and preventing incest. There is tremendous amount of stress encountered by adolescents when they are required to deal with the most frequent questions of personal intimacy, the significance of boy and girl relationships, and how to achieve satisfactory relationships with the opposite sex.

There are wide differences between cultures with regard to the sexual behaviour expected of adolescents. Despite the social changes coping with sexual development remains a lonely and silent experience (Parry-Jones, cited in Rutter & Hersov, 1985). Realizing the dilemma of many adolescents regarding sex information, educators have shown much concern about the inadequate and incorrect information about human sexuality and many schools have incorporated materials into the curriculum to give youth accurate and more complete information on sexuality issues.

However, school programs on sex education show that much information is provided on menstruation, reproductive system and venereal diseases (Bhattacharya, 1985). There are other related issues on sexuality on which the adolescents remain poorly informed. It has been seen that adolescents often have difficulty in choosing the correct source of information, which in turn adds to and raises anxiety.

The issue of identity and looking towards future

The other major psychological challenges for the young person with regard to a central feature of adolescence involve the formation of a new identity. The adolescent is no longer a child as a new person is emerging. The young person is in a continuous struggle with the greatest of all issues-‘searching for the meaning and purpose of life’ (Bhattacharya, 1985).

At one end, there is striving toward integration of inner and outer directions, and at the opposite end there is identity diffusion leading to a sense of instability in the midst of many confusing inner and outer demands. This polarity must be solved within the span of adolescence if transitory or lasting disturbances in adulthood are to be prevented (Maier, cited in Carol, 1975). An adolescent must master certain developmental tasks during this stage, in order to resolve the identity conflict. Failure to resolve the tasks adequately would lead to identity confusion that is likely to be accompanied by considerable stress, inner tensions and increased anxiety (Erikson, 1968).

The identity of girls is submerged in prescribed roles, clear-cut and limited aspirations (to be a good daughter-in-law and wife), selflessness, and the network of relationships. This may increase undue stress and may be damaging to some girls’ self-esteem. Similarly, the ideas that teenage boys have about being an adult male can be psychologically destructive when they try to live up to them. Another major challenge for adolescents is concerned with the need to find their place in society and to gain a sense of fitting in that place. Rogers (1977) emphasized that the combined expectations of the society, parents and peers, together with newly acquired physiological, psychological and cognitive changes, are often stressful and challenge the adolescent to make changes in social behaviour.

Preparation for the future is another important task. Adolescents begin to feel the pressure of having to state what they want to be by the time they reach the end of their schooling. In fact they have to make academic decisions at school that would, more or less, seal their future course of education and career particularly in the urban context (Sharma, 1999). Selection of a vocation is another big dilemma (Crow & Crow, 1956), and a lot of time is spent and anxiety faced in weighing the advantages and disadvantages of several attractive vocations. Adolescents’ lack of knowledge of their own abilities and paucity of information they possess concerning the requirements and opportunities of different vocations make this almost inevitable.

The stress and uncertainty about future is heightened by what adolescents see around them. They observe unemployment of the educated youth, under-employment of qualified personnel and unfair practices in the professional world. Schlegel & Barry (1991) in their study sample found that across cultures life becomes a serious business at adolescence, as it is not just a period of training for adult life but, also a time during which the ground is prepared for adult social relationships. Decisions made during these years can have far reaching consequences.

Gender difference in stresses and problems results from the interaction of pre-existing individual vulnerability factors with novel challenges encountered during the adolescent transition. It is suggested that girls are more vulnerable to depression than boys even before adolescence and are more susceptible to anxiety due to the more challenging situations that they face and less positive responses that they make (Ge, Conger, & Elder, 2001; Verma, 1995). However cross-cultural studies by Schlegel & Barry (1991) found that the transition from childhood to adulthood is more continuous for girls than for boys. There is lesser social disjuncture between girlhood and womanhood than between boyhood and manhood, which makes social relations of adolescent girls easier, thus suggesting that adolescence may often be less stressful for girls than for boys.

Dealing with the stressors: How do adolescents cope?

Morgan, King, weisz, and Schopler (1999) defined stress as an internal state that can be caused by physical demands on the body or by environmental and social situations that are evaluated as potentially harmful, uncontrollable, or exceeding our coping resources.

The notion of coping with stress refers to individual differences in response to stressful events, happenings and circumstances. Traditionally, it is defined as a thought or action undertaken by an individual to manage a stressful situation or event ( Bermann, Eastin & Bermann,2001, p. 1104). According to Frydenberg (1999), the concept of coping refers to the cognitive and behavioural strategies that adolescents use as they meet problems in their everyday lives and requires different resources depending on the person and the circumstances. The dictionary of Psychology defines coping behaviour as “the characteristic manner in which the individual deals with his social and physical environment, particularly as he mobilizes his resources to handle stress” (1996, p. 105). Coping has a dual function of problem solving and of a regulation of emotional distress.

Adolescents react to stress in much the same way as the adults do. Common reactions may be excitement, fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. Some adolescents withdraw from others, some lash out at others, and some actively seek the comfort of others. There are two major ways to cope with stress. One of the ways is problem solving that involves trying to deal with the problem by changing the situation or getting rid of the problem. Another way of handling stress is based on handling emotions, thoughts and feelings caused by the problem (Ebata, 1996). Adolescents use both methods, and both can be effective depending on what the problem is and when it started. Studies show that people who deal with their problems, see the positive side of difficult situations, and take part in activities they enjoy are more likely to be well adjusted. Managing emotions can be very helpful in the early stages of coping with a problem. Studies of adolescents in the western countries show that the most common ways young adolescents cope with stress are listening to music and watching television (Arnett, cited in, Brown, Larson, & Saraswati, 2002; Dacey & Kenny, 1997). Media can help them to ponder and subdue the strong emotions that are often part of adolescence.

There are remarkable differences in the abilities of adolescents to cope with challenges that confront them. Some adolescents have great difficulty in dealing with problems, which for others may be minor. Because these young people are not able to cope with the problems in an adaptive manner, they may develop problem behaviours and are at risk of developing mental health problems (Frydenberg, 1999). Geldard & Geldard (1999) found that adolescents sometimes emerged from stressful encounters with increased abilities and resources, and for them dealing with stressful situations stimulates personal growth and helps them to move along the adolescent developmental path towards adulthood.

Most current approaches to coping posit that an individual’s interpretation of events plays an important role in adaptation to stress (hardy, Power, & Jaedicke, 1993). Adolescents take into consideration their own perception of their ability to deal with the stressor or problem. Once an event is appraised as stressful, the adolescent’s coping resources are called into play (Coleman & Hendry, 1999). This flexibility and adolescent’s ability to generate a variety of alternative strategies represents a wider range of available responses that facilitate coping (Hardy et. al., 1993).

The adolescent’s personal coping resources play an important role and influence the way in which the young person copes in specific situations. These include temperament and personality characteristics apart from beliefs about self, and the world. When an adolescent perceives himself or herself as a competent person who copes and believes that the environment is basically friendly or at least benign, the likelihood of successful coping strategies being used is increased. Geldard & Geldard (1999) stated that individuals who cope most successfully are those who make the best use of their own personal coping resources and also make use of other resources that may be available, and are of value. For example, an adolescent might use a friend, parents, or a counsellor as a resource at times when the young person’s own resources are being stretched. Similarly, they might use an environmental resource such as a peaceful place in which to relax, think and make decisions.

Adolescents also have their personal coping styles. These maybe influenced by cultural factors, gender, socio-economic status, and current environmental factors. Frydenberg & Louis (1993, cited in Geldard & Geldard, 1999, p.45) suggest three styles of coping. The first coping style is of solving the problem. This consists of behaviours such as social support, focusing on finding a solution, seeking a relaxing diversion, investing in close friends, seeking to belong, working hard to achieve, and being positive. Reference to others, such as peers or professionals for social and spiritual support is another important coping style. Lastly, adolescents may sometimes resort to non-productive coping behaviours such as worrying, seeking to belong, wishful thinking, not coping, ignoring the problem, keeping things to oneself, and self blame. The first and the second styles of coping involve an active process whereas the third is a passive process.

Coping is also affected by the social support available to the individual and it is widely accepted that high levels of such support assists in the coping process. If parents are available to offer information and assistance in a non-judgmental manner this is supportive in itself. On the other hand where support from parents is limited one might expect to see the use of more dysfunctional coping strategies (tension reduction strategies such as drug and alcohol use as well as increased self-blame) (Coleman & Hendry, 1999). This can be viewed as an instrumental support in helping to deal with a problem, concrete support in the form of tangible assistance, or the provision of emotional support from another. Thus social support can be viewed as a multi-component concept which is made up of elements such as seeking professional help, turning to friends and others, and belonging to a group. It can play an increasingly significant role in both the appraisal of stress and the way in which it is managed (Frydenberg, 1999). Peers too play a key role in providing social support where stress is concerned. Young people increasingly turn to their contemporaries as they grow older and solving problems with the help of friends is one of the two most common coping strategies, together with discussing the problems with parents (Hardy et. al.). The appraisal process has a critical role to play in the way in which an individual responds to any stressor.

Gender differences have also been a focus of much interest in the literature on coping and there are stereotypical differences between the genders in their choices of coping strategies. Broadly speaking, males make more use of active coping (Coleman & Hendry, 1999) being more inclined to go out and meet the problem head-on, more likely to seek further information to assist them in problem-solving and more often using aggressive or confrontational techniques to deal with interpersonal difficulties. A lot of studies have shown that males use denial more often than females. It is consistently reported that girls are more affected by stress than are boys and are more likely to disclose a greater number of stressful events in their lives. In terms of coping with stress, females use social support more than males. However cross cultural studies on adolescence by Schlegel & Barry (1991) contend that social relationships of girls and women are easier than those of boys and men, which suggests that adolescence may often be less stressful for girls than for boys. Girls and young women are more likely to be dependent on parents and other adults for assistance, and are more sensitive to the expectations of others. However there will be wide variation within genders (Coleman & Hendry, 1999).

Importance of counselling for adolescents

The most effective way for individuals to deal with stress is to deal with the emotional and psychological outcomes as soon as possible after a stressful event has occurred. Problems in the lives of adolescents may interfere and block the natural developmental process. Adolescents generally draw on strategies and resources within themselves or seek the aid of peers, parents, or significant others to deal with their problems. Sometimes however, problems may be more severe, accumulative or extremely private and adolescents may be unable to deal effectively with the stressful events themselves. Help from counsellors at this juncture is most effective, especially if offered at the earliest. Research studies clearly indicate that counselling interventions immediately after stressful events promote positive coping behaviors.

Friends and relatives provide a type of counselling as do academic advisors, teachers and many others. Simply stated, counselling is any relationship in which one person is helping another person to better understand and solve a given problem. It is a warm and trusting relationship underlined with an empathetic understanding. According to Chandra (1996) counselling helps a person to explore his/her strengths, weaknesses, feelings and thoughts. Patterson & Welfel (2000) have defined counselling as, an interactive process characterized by unique relationship between counsellor and client that can bring a change in the client’s ‘behaviour’, which entails overt changes in the ways clients act, their coping skills, decision making skills, and/or relationship skills, or ‘beliefs’ that include ways of thinking about oneself, others, and the world, or the ‘levels of emotional distress’ i.e. uncomfortable feeling or reactivity to environmental stress.

The Indian edition of the Dictionary of Psychology states that counselling is “a broad name for a wide variety of procedures for helping individuals achieve adjustment, such as the giving of advice, therapeutic discussions, the administration and interpretation of tests, and vocational guidance” (1996, p. 108).

Counselling is especially essential during the years of adolescence and youth, as these are the periods of life associated with ambiguity about oneself, ones’ relationships, changing roles and the future. The unsurity related to the process of identity formation, the societal pressures that are not consistent, and the parent-child relations that are under strain due to ones need for autonomy all pave the path towards need for counselling (Malhotra, 2003).

Figure – 1

Relationship between the adolescent’s world and counselling environment

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Geldard & Geldard (1999)

Relationship between the adolescent’s world and counselling

Figure-1 systematically illustrates the position that the counselling environment occupies in the adolescent’s world. In this figure, the adolescent’s journey from child to adult is demonstrated as a move from the secure base of the family to the rather less secure base of the peer environment. The family is shown with a solid boundary to represent a place where containment, nurturing and healthy growth are fostered. Not all children have the opportunity to develop in environments like this. For many children, the family boundary is fragmented so that they are deprived of some of the benefits which they might otherwise have. The environment into which the adolescent is moving (the peer environment) is depicted as having a broken boundary because it is open to outside influences and also allows movement into and out of the environment by the adolescent so that individuation can develop.

Peer groups do not meet all the needs of the adolescent. In figure-1, the adolescent is depicted as having both an inner and an outer boundary. The inner boundary holds the adolescent’s personality, past history and accumulated skills, while the outer boundary is broken and open to outside influences. The outer boundary represents the adolescent’s newly emerging sense of self. This sense of self will consolidate as the adolescent moves through the journey to adulthood. As this boundary strengthens, it will allow the adolescent to exist in the peer environment more comfortably and with more freedom to make individual decisions and choices. The consolidating boundary allows a sense of self containment to develop within the open peer environment, with the consequence that adjustment to peer relationships will need to be negotiated. As adolescents move out from the family circle, they develop a different relationship with their families and with individual family members. This is possible because of the newly developing sense of self.

Although the counselling environment is located in the adolescent’s world, it separates from family and peer environments. The counselling boundary, as shown in Figure 1, is solid, to depict a place of safety, security, dependability and consistency. However, it has an opening for easy access and departure.

Positive experiences within the counselling environment encourage adolescents to return to their own internal and external boundaries.

Counselling adolescents needs a specific approach, as adolescents are a special group with special problems. They are neither children nor adults but are in transition. If counselling is done using strategies and techniques, suitable for either children or adults, it is unlikely to achieve a high level of success (Geldard & Geldard, 1999). The counselling approaches for this group need to be tailored so as to engage the adolescents directly and actively and to use strategies that specifically address their needs in ways that are acceptable to them. It has been suggested that easy accessibility to a well-qualified counselor is a must to enable relatively minor problems to be addressed before deterioration begins. Counselling has been appropriately described as, “the interaction developing through the relationship between a counselor and a person in a temporary state of indecision, confusion or distress. It helps that individual to make his own decision and choices, to resolve his confusion and cope with his distress in a personally realistic and meaningful way. Counselling has consideration for emotional and practical needs of the adolescents and for the likely consequences of their behaviour” (Vanya, 1989).

Sodhi (1997) stated that guidance services ensured the student’s self-actualization within their social matrix and looked after the development of the individual student with his/her unique potentialities, needs and problems. In addition to facilitation of individual student’s development, guidance services help in solving problems and make adjustments in schools, as well as in the home and community. All students face problems from time to time. Failures to resolve these problems leads to emotional and social maladjustments, conflict with the school authorities, interference with learning, resulting in underachievement, failure, truancy, dropping out or consequent unrealized potentials. In recent years there has been a focus on the importance of safeguarding the mental health of adolescents. Realizing this, many public schools are appointing counsellors (“All stressed out and nowhere to go,” 2004).

The school years coincide with the stage of rapid growth and the stage of exploration in the life of the individual. The broad goal of education and of guidance is the same, namely, all round development of the individual.

Counsellors in school environment concentrate on four major tasks. These include organizing and presenting classroom curricula that focuses on developmental concerns of adolescents, organizing and making available to students comprehensive information systems necessary for educational and vocational planning and decision making, helping students assess their personal characteristics, and providing remedial interventions for students needing special help (Chandra, 2002). The aim of school counselling is to help pupils solve their own problems so that they may be reasonably well adjusted and happy at their current stage of development, take maximum advantage of the educational situation, and make realistic plans for the future (Hughes, 1971).

Counselling in education is related to the help service provided to pupils in face-to-face situations for overcoming their day-to-day problems, making them capable of solving similar problems in future and developing the understanding of their self. The introduction of the school counsellor maybe looked on as a development within the school setting, representing an increasing recognition that the knowledge and expertise necessary to promote certain aspects of the school’s expanding functions are lacking. According to Chandra (2002), the developing role of the school counselor is to have more than temporary guidance in the sense of intensification and restructuring of the school’s responsibilities for the personal and social welfare of all its pupils.

Students today face many challenges, and the importance of earning, dedicated, and qualified counsellors in our nation’s schools cannot be overlooked. School counsellors are employed in both public and private schools across the country, and provide many services to students ranging from career counselling to crisis intervention. Besides helping the students to achieve their full potential they also work closely with parents and teachers.

The extent of counselling services has increased enormously in the past several decades in the west. However, there is little data on whether Indian adolescents regard counselling as an effective technique in dealing with stressful situations. The existing research work on adolescents does not give a very clear picture of the issues that adolescents perceive as stressful for themselves and the attempts they make at coping with the same. Considering the rapidly changing social context, the present study was undertaken to study the adolescent adjustment problems perceived by adolescents, educators and parents in various domains related to their development. An effort was made to gauge the views of the respondents related to various aspects of counselling so as to provide inputs for effective implementation of school counselling services.


In today’s social context, problems of adolescents cannot be overlooked (Tanushree, 2006; Sharma, 2003; David& Romer, 2003; Thompson, 2003; Vidyarthi, 2001; Gerald & Gerald, 1999; Kashyap, 1996; Gallup, 1994). Qualified and dedicated counsellors can play an important role in helping adolescents make healthy adjustment in the society (Bryan, 2005; Clark & Amatea, 2004; Sheridan & D’Amato, 2004; ASCA, 2003; Taylor & Adelman, 2000; Gysbers and Henderson, 2000; Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Hobbs & Collison, 1995).

Yet the present scenario is dismal. Not many schools in Chandigarh have qualified counsellors on their rolls. Why have many schools ignored provision of counselling services needs to be studied. For this, it becomes imperative to study the views of the adolescents, educators, and parents regarding the various areas of adjustment where adolescents face problems as well as gauge their views on the need and importance of counselling services in the school set up.

Besides it has been noticed that persons without adequate qualification are engaged in counselling with serious negative outcomes. Thus it becomes important to understand how adolescents, educators and parents view counselling and understand various aspects of its implementation in schools, so that steps to enhance the understanding of the importance of counselling programs for school going adolescents can be taken based on inputs of the study and an effective program for orientation of the teachers, parents and adolescents can be planned. Hence the present study was undertaken with the following objectives.

Objectives of the study

1. To gain an insight into perception of adolescents, educators and parents regarding adjustment problems of adolescents in various domains.
2. To gauge the views of educators, parents and adolescents regarding need and importance of counselling services in schools.
3. To understand the views of educators, parents and adolescents related to various aspects of implementation of school counselling services.

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The present study was designed to investigate the adolescent adjustment problems and school counselling services as perceived by adolescents, educators and parents. To achieve this objective the following method was employed.

Design of the study

The present study was conducted on adolescents studying in various schools of Chandigarh. Their parents and educators (Principals and teachers) were also part of the study. The sampling design is given in Figure-2.

Figure – 2

Design of the Study

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The sample for the study consisted of 100 adolescents, 100 parents, 25 Teachers and 10 Principals from various private/public schools of Chandigarh.

Sampling procedure

Selection of the schools

Various schools in different sectors of Chandigarh were visited and the aims and objectives of the study were explained. The utility of the present work was also explained. Of the 16 schools visited, only the following ten schools gave their consent for interacting with the students, parents and educators.


List of Chandigarh schools selected for the study

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Selection of respondents

100 students of VIII standard were randomly selected from the above mentioned 10 schools. 25 teachers were selected randomly from among the staff teaching the same classes. Principals of all the 10 schools shortlisted above were taken for the study. 50 fathers and 50 mothers were selected randomly from among the parents of the selected sample of adolescents.

Tools used for the study

The tools used by the investigator for the present study were

- Student problem checklist
- Self prepared questionnaires

Description of student problem checklist

The Student problem checklist has been prepared by Department of Educational Psychology and Foundation of Education, National Council of Educational Research and Training. This was used to identify the perception of problem areas of adjustment (see Appendix-I). The checklist has high reliability (alpha = .94).

This checklist comprised of questions pertaining to ten domains of adjustment. These areas along with a few related questions have been shown in Table-2.


Description of the Student problem checklist

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All of the ten domains comprised of twenty questions each. Responses were elicited on a four point Likert scale: ‘0 = never’, ‘1 = sometimes’, ‘2 = usually’, to ‘3 = always’. The minimum score in each area was 0 and the maximum 60. High mean value reflected perception of greater adjustment problem in that particular area.

Description of the self prepared questionnaires for

- Adolescents
- Parents
- Educators (Principals and Teacher)

These questionnaires dealt with the following aspects:

- Perception of major problem areas of the school going adolescents
- Counselling needs of school going adolescents
- Perception of educators, parents and adolescents about adolescents’ problems.
- Extent of willingness of educators, parents, and adolescents for seeking counselling.
- Perception of educators, parents, and adolescents regarding the need for counselling.
- Problems faced by the educators, adolescents, and their parents while seeking counselling.

The majority of questions were closed ended with the option to mark more than one response if required. Some questions were left open ended for each category.

The self prepared questionnaires for parents and educators (principals and teachers) comprised of two parts. Part I dealt with questions for respondents who favoured counselling, whereas Part II comprised of questions for respondents who were against counselling. The total number of questions for each respondent is given below and detailed questionnaires are given in Appendices-II, III, IV and V.


Description of the questions

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Before administering the questionnaires, on the sample, views of the following experts were taken to establish the face validity and the suggested modifications were made in the questionnaires.


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Adolescent adjustment problems and school counselling services as percieved by adolecents, educators and parents
Panjab University  (Government Home Science College, Chandigarh, India)
Masters in Child Development
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Jagjiwan Kaur (Author)Arpita Malhotra (Author), 2008, Adolescent adjustment problems and school counselling services as percieved by adolecents, educators and parents, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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