The high school "Junior Theme" as an adolescent rite of passage

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This paper examines high school research projects as an adolescent transitional episode that demarks acquisition of a capacity for prolonged creative effort. Whereas tests of courage are important in many subsistence societies, in ours a valued quality of adulthood is the ability to think and act on one's own. Self-report data from 154 students working on a "Junior Theme" are employed to illustrate the psychological significance of this kind of "rite." The students report a range of emotional states that are well out of their normal school experience. Many go through a process of personal involvement and self-searching that resembles an identity quest. As a result of the project students feel they have acquired a new status, one that separates them from the uninitiated and puts them closer to the status and power of an autonomous adult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-283
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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