Adolescence represents a transitional period between statuses and affiliations. Most often the term’s use is restricted to the transition from the world of the child to adult.
Certain historical antecedents have heightened the importance of adolescence and an understanding of it. Major factors include, “the separation of the location of work from the domicile, the highly specialized division of labor, the necessity of a long period of education and training in preparation for a position within the complex urban-industrial structure, the availability to the young of a considerable share of the economic affluence, and the relatively high social and geographic mobility so characteristic of urban-industrial life”.
Adolescence may be characterized by a separation from the adult world and the increasing salience of the peer group. The peer group serves as a focus for the development of a distinct culture including activities, routines, norms, and values.
The vast majority of the research done which respects the autonomy of children’s cultures has been done either with young children or with high school-age adolescents. This is unfortunate because of the importance of this stage as serving as a transition from childhood to adolescence. This is the time in which peer influences are thought to be at their most advanced state.
Early adolescents have a greater level of independence than younger children and are given more opportunities to interact outside of the constraints of adults. Studies of student life in educational environments have consistently found that being with friends is the most salient aspect of school life for most students. However, not all friendship groups are considered equal among middle school and high school students.
A major development during pre and early adolescence is an increasing concern with social status and social differentiation. Numerous studies have also found that for males, athletic participation is a key to the acquisition of social status. The link between social status and athletic participation is understood by recognizing the importance of athletics in overall gender development.
The characteristics and traits expected of adult males are (theoretically) transmitted in the sports setting. Not only are cultural expectations for individual males supported in athletics, but also the school as an institution legitimates the importance of participation through the tremendous financial and organizational support given these programs.