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Influence of G Stanley Hall on Adolescent Development Research

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G.Stanley Hall was a psychologist perhaps best-known as the first to earn a Ph.d in psychology and for becoming the first president of the American Psychological association . He had knowledge in major fields such as anthropology, philosophy , theology.  He initially planned to become a minister so he studied to become a pastor in a Christian ministry, just to leave the ministry after 10 weeks.

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G. Stanley Hall influenced several social movements that had great implications for adolescence and child wellbeing : the Child Study, Parent Education, and Child Welfare Movements. However, while Hall laid much of the foundation for the field of scientific child study and policy-relevant research, his legacy is virtually nonexistent (Brooks-Gunn,2010, p247).

Our study focuses on the adolescence period. From the sociological point of view, adolescence traditionally is described as a period of physical maturity and social immaturity. Adolescents reach physical adulthood before they are capable of functioning well in adult social roles. The disjunction between physical capabilities and socially allowed independence and power and the concurrent status ambiguities are viewed as stressful for the adolescent in modern Western society (Simmons, 2017, p3).

One of the most influencing work G.S Hall had is in his book Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion and education(1904). In this work he describes adolescence like a period of “storm and stress”. In his work he deeply analyses the stages of adolescence. Some of this stages are: adolescence love, changes in voice, intellectual development and education etc.( Hall, 1916, vol II, p1).  Even if he is not as well known his work has served as a strong pillar for understanding the adolescence period and the struggle of this period of growth. Hall (1904) originally described the adolescent years as ones of “storm and stress.” Later, Erikson (1959, 1968) characterized adolescence as a time of identity crisis, in which the youngster struggles for a stable sense of self. Psychoanalysts, such as Bios (1962,1971) and Anna Freud (1958), have suggested that puberty sparks a resurgence of Oedipal conflicts for the boy and pre-Oedipal pressures for the girl (see Barglow and Schaefer,1979). According to Elkind (1967), cognitive processes also contribute to adolescent difficulty. Adolescents become cognizant that others are formulating opinions of them, but they are unable to differentiate their own self-preoccupations from the perceived thoughts of their imaginary audience (adolescent “egocentrism”).

History of research of adolescence

Although  some consider that adolescence is twenties-century invention, reference to behavior in adolescence can be found in ancient writings of Plato(1953 translation) and Aristotel(1941 translation). In the middle ages we can find that people were believing that adolescence where small adults.  Being the fact that adolescence was and is a field in continuous research we divided the history of the research in three periods:

Adolescence in twenty century

Hall (1904) is usually credited with being the first to identify adolescence as an important period in life and with the first writings  on the psychology of adolescence. Hall’s descriptions of adolescents were  not based  on research and were probably not representative of adolescence even at that time. Nevertheless, Hall’s views of adolescence, which included the  concept  of storm and stress, had great influence on all writing about adolescence for the next 50 years or so (Petersen, 1988, p587)


The most important research on adolescents prior to the current period was probably that emanating from the major US growth studies, such as the California studies (e.g. Eichorn et al 1981) and the Fels Longitudinal Study (e.g. Kagan & Moss 1962). These studies focused less on specific age periods and their particular problems and phenomena than on more general aspects of growth and development (e.g. physical growth, social growth, intellectual growth, etc). They nevertheless provided a great deal of basic information about adolescence. For example, Bayer & Bayley (1959) described the adolescent growth spurt and the development of secondary sex characteristics (Petersen, 1988, p587).


In this period of time we can see not as much quantitative increase but qualitative changes in adolescent research. As with much developmental research, there has been a shift in adolescent-development research from stage-oriented approaches to process-oriented  approaches  (e.g.  Keating 1987). For example many developmental domains, from secondary sex characteristic development to cognitive development, were conceptualized as involving a series of invariant stages. Development in many areas is now conceptualized as involving more continual change, often even involving regressions as a typical aspect (Petersen, 1988, p588)

“Storm and Stress “(turmoil of a generation)

A well known and used expression to characterize the period of adolescence is the “storm and stress”. The term was first used by G. Stanley Hall in his 1904 work to refer to the decrease in self-control (storm) and the corresponding increase in sensitivity to arousing stimuli (stress) that typically characterize adolescent behavior.  This hypostasis of storm and stress  offered for later researchers question and curiosity not be whetherstorm and stress occurs in every adolescent; rather, the fundamental questions may be whendo changes occur and howdo they manifest? Specifically, the all-or-nothing approach of the storm and stress hypothesis, much like the nature– nurture debate, is rooted in a false dichotomy and does little to facilitate our understanding of how adolescents develop and change.

A important man who used G. Hall’s work and was fascinated by adolescence behavior was Tom Hollestien . He created a review of Halls work and gave important information about adolescence. His review focused on an admittedly non-exhaustive set of behaviors that have been discussed and/or measured throughout the past century by anthropologists, psychoanalysts, and contemporary scholars which gave this characterizes and periods when they appeared(Hollenstein,2013, p445):

a) conflict with parents – The peak in the frequency of parent–adolescent conflict, occurs in early adolescence, whereas the intensity of these conflicts peaks later, in mid-adolescence

b) mood disruptions- most notably, depressive episodes and symptoms which tend to peak in mid-adolescence.

c) risk behavior-The tendency to engage in risky behaviors is the last of this triumvirate to peak, in late adolescence .

We can note that this stated above stages are “difficulty” for adolescents and those around them. Worth mentioning is that this stages are in the order they appear.  Changes in each of these domains are thought to be more probable during adolescence but not inevitable.( Hollenstein, 2013 ,p445).

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We can say we clarified summarily the when of this “manifestations” and we moving on the how and whythis changes appear and manifest in the adolescence behavior. Hall hypothesis for storm and stress as much as useful we can say without a doubt that is limited to the understanding of the current days.

Since Hall’s (1904) time, research has deepened our understanding of adolescence development, emotions, biology. Recent progress in developmental neuroscience, for example, has accelerated this understanding and inspired a few more inclusive models of adolescent development (Hollenstein, 2013, p445). A very popular approach of understanding adolescence is the 4T approach. This approach is talking about:

1) Timing- the change between infancy to adolescent

2) Typically- behaviors and pathologies that emerge during this period

3) Temperament: summarize intra-individual emotional response tendencies (e.g., sensitivity, regulation)

4) Transaction- transactions between biology and environment

This for approaches are built on 6 important premises(Hollenstein, 2013 ,p446-448):

1) The biological changes of adolescence are inevitable and ubiquitous

2) Adolescent biological changes drive various mechanisms of adolescent behavior.

3) Adolescent biological changes are shaped by environmental influences

4) Individual differences in adolescent emotional behavior changes are domain specific and vary in intensity.

5) There are individual differences in the age of onset and duration of periods of adolescent change

6) Individual differences in the duration and intensity of transitions in emotional arousal are functionally modulated by emotion regulation skills


We can say without a doubt that Hall’s “storm and stress” hypothesis is a pillar in understanding the adolescence period. We can say that Hall’s is as well one “epilogue” book of understanding adolescent. The main issue that is facing is that that is limited and not discussed sufficient in Hall’s time. Modern researchers have used  Hall’s and expanded the knowledge of adolescence period. The “storm and stress” period has being proved as such research as a valid topic.


  • Brooks-Gunn, J., & Duncan Johnson, A. (2006). G. Stanley Hall’s contribution to science, practice and policy: The child study, parent education, and child welfare movements. History of Psychology9(3), 247.
  • Hall, G. S. (1916). Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion and education (Vol. 2). D. Appleton.
  • Simmons, R. G. (2017). Moving into adolescence: The impact of pubertal change and school context. Routledge.
  • Petersen, A. C. (1988). Adolescent development. Annual review of psychology39(1), 583-607.
  • Hollenstein, T., & Lougheed, J. P. (2013). Beyond storm and stress: Typicality, transactions, timing, and temperament to account for adolescent change. American Psychologist68(6), 444.

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