N.23 - Reflections on the adolescent group with particular reference to trauma and accidents

Adolescence and Reckless Driving: Critical Reflections

Abstract

Analysing the data of a previous study, the authors present a number of considerations on the problem of adolescent reckless driving, noting that quantitative studies furnish a sort of snapshot of adolescent risky behaviour but do not equip one to understand the psychological significance of the phenomenon.  What they criticize is the psychological construct designated  sensation seeking, understood as a personality trait specific to the adolescent and young adult population, and the construct concerned with  self-regulatory efficacy, that is the inability to resist the pressures exerted by their peers to undertake dangerous actions. These constructs, which have been excessively generalized in psychological research, correspond to complex dynamics typical of an adolescence whose mental functioning is  dissociated, that is belonging neither to the world of adults nor to that of children nor to that of adolescents, which brings the need for a range of experiences, some of which may be physically very dangerous, in the course of the subject s ongoing response to the problems of adolescence.  This mental state belongs to a phase of life but also to a structural organization of the mind that can be reawakened in the course of an individual s life experience, which implies an intrapsychic dynamic that cannot be denied. The psychological constructs utilized, though susceptible to criticism from a methodological point of view, are in fact meaningful in the field of studies in social psychology, but their extension to the functioning of the mind generally is inappropriate and represents a dangerous oversimplification. Generalizing the meaning of data obtained through quantitative tools to apply to the field of  psychology as a whole can lead to a radical misunderstanding of the very meaning of psychology, with a return to the quest for general laws of psychic functioning through studies conceived in terms of a form of neo-positivist reductionism that risks flattening out complexity in an attempt to make it analysable.

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