While the word adolescence has its root in the Latin word adolescere, meaning to grow up, the word has taken on a much deeper and more significant meaning during this century. It refers to the years between approximately 12 and 18 during which a person goes through profound physical, psychological, emotional, and social change. An adolescent is a person who is no longer a child but has not yet become an adult. An adolescent is a person who is realizing a separate identity and discovering the power of new capacities only dreamed of as a child.

It’s no wonder that these years have taken on such significance during the last 80 years, especially in America. Up until this century a person’s place in the social order was secure. Options were usually quite limited. Often a person was expected to marry young, while still a teen, and, if a male, be along on a track of apprenticeship or following in his father’s footsteps in a vocation that would be his for life. The changing fabric of modern society not only broke that tradition but exposed adolescents to a diversity of conflicting views, life styles, and options that could challenge the beliefs and expectations that were commonly accepted by earlier generations. This is not to say that these issues did not exist before. It is just on such a greater scale today.

Because they are in the process of finding their own places in a world which today is constantly and rapidly changing, adolescents are often the trend setters of new fads, styles, technological advancements, and ways of thinking. This frequently puts them in conflict with parents and older siblings who often see the teenagers as rebellious and being drawn into strange and not all together acceptable situations and behaviors. Adolescents reflect the spirit of the time in ways that can be very threatening to older people.

The following films explore various aspects of adolescent life including the strain that often exists between teenagers and adults. Each movie in some way reflects on the confusion, hesitation, risks, rebellion, idealism, and change that characterize this period of life.

The Films

For many teenagers, high school is a boring and unrewarding place that has no purpose other than maybe allowing one to be with one’s friends. When the school is in an economically challenged community and the academic standards for that community are low, school becomes even less meaningful for many of the kids. It is easy for adolescents in this environment to lose faith in themselves and believe that they are losers. Even the most capable can become underachievers. Stand and Deliver tells the true story of how one teacher, Jaime Escalante, taught a group of these kids advanced math and calculus, and in doing so helped them gain self-respect and belief in their own potential. His confidence in their capabilities and his willingness to challenge them to do their best brings home an important message: Adolescents need someone not only to believe in them but someone to guide them to realize their potential. 1987.
Warner Home Video
Rated PG by M.P.A.A.

THE KARATE KID Teenagers need adult role models who will teach them skills to survive and the attitude and discipline needed to use these skills wisely. These role models have pivotal influence. Here is both the risk and the benefit: Take a basically good kid, pair him with an adult who promotes an undesirable way of thinking and behaving, and he will learn unwise ways of using new skills. If that adult is aggressive and abusive, the kid is at risk of acquiring an indifference to any hurtful consequence of how he uses what he is learning. But if connected with the right person, the teenager will realize the self-discipline and mental attitudes essential for responsible exercise of his new masteries. This is one of several lessons of The Karate Kid, the account of teenage boys and two karate instructors. Daniel, the protagonist in the film, is kind of a geeky kid who moves with his mother to Southern California where he finds it hard to fit in with his new peers. Like an average teenager, he doesn’t always demonstrate the best judgement. He accidentally antagonizes a gang member who belongs to a dogo (a karate gymnasium) and who picks on Daniel. Later, Daniel attempts to get even, but gets beaten up in the process. He is befriended by an older man who he discovers knows karate. This man teaches him karate and, in the process, a great deal about life, learning, and self discipline. You have probably seen this movie and already know the meaning of "wax on, wax off." Even if you have, The Karate Kid is worth seeing again if for no other reason than to observe how adults, with an expertise that some teenagers want, can have such powerful influences over the way the kids behave.
Columbia TriStar Studios
Rated P.G. by M.P.A.A.

See Also:

East Of Eden

The Mighty

Please note: More movies are being added to this page.  Check back soon.

The booklet A Practical Guide To Parents of Adolescents is an excellent resource for parents with teenage children. Philip Synder, Ph.D. of Integrated Health Resources writes, "Of all the natural events that occur in the family life cycle, the emergence of adolescence is the one most likely to test the flexibility of family organizations. Practical Guide For Parents of Adolescents is an important opportunity to help translate and better understand the different language and perceptions of family members and to provide significant support during the more difficult "passage."   For only $2.50 plus shipping and handling you can have this booklet mailed to you within two days! Click here to check out this booklet NOW!
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