Characteristics of the 12 Year-Old
(from Believe in Me Teacher’s Manual)
1. Fascinated with mystery as well as with detailed facts, as in history.
2. Highly imaginative. Tendency to daydream and fantasize. Learning to resolve the constant tension between the real and the imaginary gradually decreases egocentricity and increases awareness of others.
3. Peer acceptance and successful living with peers. For some, the peer group acquires tremendous power; parental demands as well as personal beliefs may be ignored in favour of peer group. Others are immune from its grip.
4. Intellect and abilities fluctuate: there is often a blend of the concrete and the formal. Ability to think abstractly, while expanding, is not sophisticated. Abilities to make sound judgments, to hypothesize effectively and to detach from selfish interests are poorly developed.
5. Trust, dependability and fairness are primary values. However, authority rather than justice is the basis for the social identity. The capacity to distinguish between these two is not yet formed. Though it lacks clarity and direction, there is a strong tendency to show loyalty and devotion. Friendships are powerful; often they are long-lasting and sturdy. An almost universal belief in faithfulness and dependability exists, though others are often held to higher standards than early adolescents themselves maintain.
6. Religious belief tends toward the conventional. Religious practice, if any, will be the same as parents. Spiritual experiences do not carry much emotional impact. Religion is generally seen as something that should be respected.
7. Desire for increased independence exists along-side the need for a friend who can be trusted, who will listen and with whom important events can be shared. Praise and encouragement from parents and teachers, though often received with a casual air, can be extremely influential. Emotional ties with parents remains strong: parents are often seen as the most compassionate and caring adults in the early adolescent’s world.
8. Main identity task is replacing child identity with adolescent one. There is a striving to be good at something. When they perceive that they are not good at anything (a common perception), resentment or indifference is used to mask their disappointment. Identity bewilderment resulting from rapid and unexpected changes is common and painful but without major emotional dislocation.
9. Moral outlook tends toward the conventional. An underdeveloped sense of morality is the lens through which most things in the social world are filtered. Rules are likely to be out of habit or fear than for their intrinsic merit. They talk about hypocrisy without understanding its meaning. They have trouble with double standards buy usually prefer to emphasize those of others and overlook their own.