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Adolescent Development in the Movie The Breakfast Club

The 1985 film The Breakfast Club, which was written and directed by John Hughes, presents an ideal opportunity to study and psychoanalyze adolescent development. The film portrays five different teenage stereotypes (the jock, nerd, criminal, prom queen, and social outcast) which are consigned to detention in the library on a weekend day (Tanen & Hughes, 1985). As the teenagers gradually get to know each other and interact amongst themselves, they reveal crucial causes and effects of some basic psychological principles related to the development of adolescents. They share a number of problems in common including an almost universal sense of alienation from their parents and from adults in general. As such, there are several psychological theories that apply to them, including, most eminently, Erickson's stages of development.

Erickson's stages of development are predicated by some basic facts of what is known as lifespan theory, which contends that individuals are constantly developing from the time they are conceived until they die. As such, Erickson denoted eight particular stages of development that one goes through, the first five of which pertain to teenagers. The fifth stage is that in which adolescents form their own identities, and is the final stage before transitioning to adulthood. It is interesting to observe how several of Erickson's stages of development pertain to the social outcast, whose character name is Allison. One of the facets of Allison's characterization that is clear and is a point of commonality that she shares with all of the characters but which is still the most eminent in her is that as an adolescent and a person living through stage five, Identity vs. Role Confusion, her appearance is extremely significant.
Whereas the other characters are adorned in an assortment of colored clothes, Allison only wears black -- a fact which helps to distinguish her from the others and to imply her social status and identity as a pariah. Her clothes, therefore, make up a significant part of her identity in this film.

Nonetheless, one of the defining character traits of Allison is the fact that she is a pathological liar, and even admits as such. The repeated telling of lies and the inability to refrain from telling lies is a display of antisocial, subversive behavior -- the roots of which can be found in Erickson's stages of development. Like all of the adolescents in this film Allison is at odds with her parents and is far from enjoying a positive relationship with them. There is an intrinsic relationship between her pathological compulsion to lie and her self-identity as an outcast; these two traits are complementary and allude to issues with trust. Trust vs. Mistrust is the initial stage in Erickson's eight stages, and takes place from the moment a child is born until he or she becomes a toddler. This is the stage when a person learns to foster trust or mistrust for people, places and….....

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