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Exploring the meaning of happiness and unhappiness for adolescents between the ages of 13-15 years

Adolescent emotions, especially those of happiness and unhappiness have seen an increase in interest over the last century, particularly in the modern Western world. This has resulted in a rise in guidance and policy which specifically focuses on the behaviours and actions of adolescents. The impact unhappiness has on adolescents has been extensively researched, and has been convincingly linked to deviant behaviours, including drug and alcohol use, crime, a rise in poor mental health and well-being and an increase in unemployment and social unrest. However, examination of the data shows that there continues to be an over reliance from the fields of developmental psychology and physiology research which utilises data from large scale surveys and questionnaires. There continues to be a lack of evidence generated by the adolescents themselves and therefore a lack of knowledge as to what they understand their emotions mean. To date the sociology of emotion has offered little in the way of contribution to this social group, compounding the dominance of other fields of research, and as a result there has been a blurring of the boundaries of mental health, well-being and happiness By focusing on the micro social processes of everyday life and utilising theoretical concepts of Goffman’s (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Hochschild’s (2003) The Managed Heart, a research project which focused on gaining adolescents understanding of the meaning of everyday happiness and unhappiness was constructed. Methodologically this is challenging to capture. However by adopting principles recognised by research from the sociology of childhood, and using data generating methods as photo elicitation and in depth interviews; it has enabled emotions to be situated within a personal and textual history, generating rich and individualised data from which to explore the key research questions. The key findings illustrated adolescents performed emotions as a way of communicating meaning and conveying social action within their everyday lives. As such they demonstrated that they were concerned with performing in an ‘emotionally competent’ way. It is the development of this concept which is offered as a new contribution to the sociology of emotions. Fundamental to the adolescent’s performance being viewed, by them, as emotionally competent was the notion of authenticity and sincerity in their performance. Participants spoke about distinguishing between their external performance and their internal feeling world and as such their performance was categorised into three distinct performances; those being the emotionally guarded, the emotionally present and the emotionally acted. They reported that providing their performance was judged to be authentic and sincere, they were then seen to be performing in an emotionally competent way. It was concluded that emotional competent performances are a key which unlocks arenas of the adult world. Transition from adolescence to adulthood primarily lay in the hands of adults who governed their lives and therefore demonstration of emotional competence was rewarded by increased responsibility and autonomy. The adolescents noted that the power balance lay in the hands of adults; so whilst judgements of emotional competence was made by both adults and peers, they were aware that navigating their social landscape was fraught with complexity and performing competently assisted in the transition from adolescents to adulthood.
Date January 2015
CreatorsSchwarz, Toni
ContributorsMoran-Ellis, J.
PublisherUniversity of Surrey
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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