Coming of Age Essay

Published: 2021-07-03 07:20:04
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Evaluate the social constructs that have brought about similarities and differences between you and your interviewees, drawing conclusions about the influence of power and authority, gender and technology, continuity and change. There are a variety of social constructs that have brought about similarities and differences between the attitudes of society today and various societies and cultures in the 1970’s/1980’s.
Through a series of interviews with people who ‘came of age’ in the 80’s, combined with secondary research, the aspects of continuity and change became apparent, particularly when discussing influences of power, authority, gender and technology. Power is the ability to influence the actions or points of view of other people. There are aspects of power have remained unchanged for young people since the 1980’s. The influence of parents is a defining factor according to both interviewees.
One of my interviewees talked about how the main reason she wanted to achieve high marks academically, was because her mother never got the opportunity for tertiary education. Parents also hold the power to influence the religious beliefs of their children. My first interviewee was raised with Christian beliefs and values, however her views changed as she got older. My other interviewee was also raised with strong Catholic beliefs, which she has continued to value to this day and has consequently raised her children with these beliefs. My parents definitely have the power to influence how I behave.
I know what they expect of me and that there will be consequences if I disobey them. They have had a strong influence on my personal religious beliefs. Most youth in society today choose their religious affinities, regardless of parental influence. However, in most respects the power parents’ hold has continued over the past few decades. Influences from celebrities and public figures are another aspect of power that has not changed. During the late 1970s and 80’s Madonna, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi and Lionel Richie were all big names in music.
My interviewees both described Madonna to be one of the larger influences on society, setting fashion trends and new ways of thinking. Youth today are heavily influenced by the music they listen to. Artists and bands such as Eminem, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and Beyonce have influenced language, fashion and social ideas. Currently, social media heavily influences teenagers. Social media informs you about world happenings, the lives of friends and social standards. There was no concept of social media in the time period during which my interviewees were growing up.
One of my interviewees, who grew up in India, felt as though religious figures had power. Catholics in India were quite traditional at the time. Nuns ran catholic schools, and priests and bishops were very respected. Youth today are not significantly influenced by religious figures. I think that being Catholic, priests do have some influence over me, but certainly not as much as they had over Christian youth in the 80’s. The power that family and celebrities wield is as significant today as in the past, however, the influence of religion has waned. Authority is the legitimate exercise of power.
Political ideology has the power to shape attitudes of an era. Over the past few decades, teenagers coming of age have been vaguely aware of political happenings but have not appreciated its relevance. According to my second interviewee, in India it was always assumed that politicians would be corrupt, so there was never any trust or respect towards them. Currently Indian attitudes towards politicians have not changed with the media hype about corruption in political circles. Being a teenager in Australia, I do not feel very concerned about politics.
I am aware of some political happenings, but it does not interest me. In contrast, teachers then and now have authority over teenagers. Teachers are not as respected or feared now as they were previously. In the past teachers had the authority to use physical punishments against students, which are illegal now. Similar to power, some aspects of authority have changed while others have continued on. Gender refers to the differences between males and females. Gender roles were far more traditional during the 1980’s, however changes from the early 1900’s were certainly taking place.
In most households the man worked while the woman stayed home and looked after the children. This was true for my first interviewee. It was the same for my second interviewee, however her father died when she was quite young, so her mother had to work. In my home, roles are traditional in some basic ways as my mum does most of the cooking, while dad does most of the gardening. Both interviewees described most other roles within their households being fairly equal between males and females. Currently, both my parents work full time, even though my mum stayed home when we were younger.
In India in the 70s and 80’s, men were more respected than women. Being female, my second interviewee described how her mother was payed less than men and was not as respected as a working class woman is today. Expectations for interviewee 2 herself were not as high as her brothers. In sport, both my interviewees said that there were particular male and female sports. Netball was a definite girls sport, while there was no thought of girls playing sports such as touch football. Now, expectations for males and females in society are more equal.
Although, there are separate male and female categories for competitions, both genders are able to partake in the same sports. Technological developments from the 80s to now are arguably the social aspect that has evolved the most. My interviewees both conveyed that they had basic TV’s in their house holds during their teenage years. They first got their TV’s around the ages of 7 and 10. Even after having televisions in their homes, both interviewees had very limited time allocated to watch it. I have had a television in my house since I was born, while TV use has always been quite liberal.
Neither interviewee used a computer at all though their education. Research was done in the library from books, rather than the internet that we use now. There was no concept of mobile phones during my interviewee’s coming of age. My first interviewee had a landline in her house through most of her childhood, whereas my second interviewee did not even get a landline until she was in her teenage years. The Sony Walkman was described as being one of the most popular technologies when they were growing us. It is the iPods, iPhones and MP3 Players that are the most common music devices now.
Typewriters were used in the 80’s, but they were not common with my interviewees. Printers are widely used today, with typewriters being close to extinct. For teenagers, coming of age today depends heavily on technology. Almost every teen today carries a smart phone in their pocket. Laptops are used in schools around the country, with smartboards being common educational tools. From social media, to texting our means of communication are heavily dependant on technology, which is very different to the 80’s.
The developments in technology over the past 30 years have shaped how our society functions in the present day. There are definitely social aspects of society that have changed since my interviewee 1 was coming of age in Australia, to when I’m coming of age now. Back then it was far more accepted that you would be out all day and home late, without your parents worrying about you. Drugs at parties were more common, and young people acknowledged it as a natural thing to do. The average school day of my first interviewee does not differ drastically to mine.
She talked about how she could never afford to do more than one after school activity, which makes me grateful for the number of opportunities I have received to partake in extra curricular activities. Academically, things taught in core subjects at school were similar, however we have a much wider choice in subjects now. Specifically accepted ‘rights of passage’ within society have not changed. The main rights of passage included turning 18, driving and voting. The expectations she had from her parents were not very different to mine.
She was expected to try her best, however was always encouraged to do what she loved. There are many obvious changes that have occurred in Australian society over this period of time, however it is evident that are many areas where continuity is prevalent. The society and culture where my second interviewee grew up was very different to mine. We are both Catholic, however her experience with Christianity growing up was very different to mine. In Australia, Christians make up 60% of the population, making it a common, widely accepted religion.
Growing up in India, Catholics were a minority group who made up just 3% of the population. They were never fully accepted as ‘proper’ Indians. Rights of passage in India during the 80’s included your 18th and 21st birthdays as you were accepted as adults. The transition from high school at the end of your 10 was a big thing. This parallels the ‘right of passage’ of completing high school as well as the sense of adulthood you receive when turning 18 in Australia. Corporal punishments were common in the1980’s India, a far cry from attitudes today.
It was not uncommon for my interviewee’s mother to smack her as punishment. My second interviewee also expressed how teachers would commonly throw dusters at you or humiliate you in front of the class. Her family values were similar to mine. We were both brought up in Catholic homes, where you were taught to show respect to others. It is evident that societies and cultures evolve over time. Attitudes and values people have change, however many stay the same. Both continuity and change are displayed through the social constructs that make up societies.

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