This study was done to investigate the social and academic challenges of adolescents in senior high schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis. A descriptive research design was employed. A researcher-designed questionnaire was used for data collection. The reliability coefficient of the questionnaire was established using the Cronbach alpha method. Reliability coefficient obtained was .72. A sample of 367 respondents was selected from five public senior high schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis via purposive, stratified and simple random sampling procedures. The quantitative data were analyzed using means and standard deviations, independent samples t-test and one way analysis of variance, ANOVA. The study revealed that generally, students in senior high schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis were faced with many social and academic challenges. Furthermore, the study revealed that there were significant differences in the social and academic challenges of adolescents on the basis of gender, age and class levels. It was therefore, recommended that counsellors should be more sensitized about the challenges the students in the senior high schools face. Also, housemasters, housemistresses, teachers, parents and other stakeholders should play a significant role by putting measures in place to assist adolescents in their social and academic challenges. The study also includes implications for counselling.

Background to the Study
Adolescence is the period of life between the ages of 10 and 19 years (World Health Organization, 2008). This period usually coincides with entering middle school or senior high school. It covers the period where changes take place in an individual’s life in terms of physical, social and cognitive development (Burke, Brennan, & Roney, 2010). These evolutionary changes represent both a stimulus and a challenge for the development of human beings, as well as a source of difficulties (Schulenberg, Maggs, & Hurrelmann, 1997). Poorly managed changes may lead to social and academic worries of adolescents (Valverde, Lyubansky & Achenbach, 2012).

Adolescence is seen as an important period for youth as they transition into adulthood. Adolescents, like other age groups, face problems. Teachers and parents must understand the types of problems that adolescents face in order to help them enjoy the great and wholesome adventure of growing up in an incident free manner. Sexual, emotional, intellectual and social changes that adolescents experience have important social and psychological implications for them. Adolescents need to adjust to these changes and be aware continually of the effect that life in general (political, economic, social and moral) have on the growth of young people (Stiles, 1995).

Professionals who work with adolescents need to know what is normative and what represent early or late physical development in order to help prepare the adolescent for the changes that take place during this time of life. Even in schools where sex education is taught, many girls and boys still feel unprepared for the changes of puberty, suggesting that these important topics are not being dealt with in ways that are most useful to adolescents (Coleman & Hendry, 1999).

According to the American Psychological Association (2002), the many changes experienced by an adolescent can be grouped into five major categories. These are physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and behaviour. With physical development, adolescents experience a growth spurt, which involves rapid growth of bones and muscles. New concern with physical appearance and body image, both adolescent boys and girls are known to spend hours concerned with their physical appearance (Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (ReCAPP), 2007). They want to "fit in" with their peers yet achieve their own unique style as well.

Many adolescents experience dissatisfaction with their changing bodies (ReCAPP, 2007). Weight gain is a natural part of puberty, which can be distressing in a culture that glorifies being thin. In response, some adolescents begin to diet obsessively (ReCAPP, 2007). About 20% of all females aged 12-18 engage in unhealthy dieting behaviours. Some of these adolescents develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Risk factors for girls developing eating disorders include: low self-esteem, poor coping skills, childhood physical or sexual abuse, early sexual maturation, and perfectionism (American Psychological Association (APA), 2002).

In their cognitive development, dramatic shift in thinking from concrete to abstract gives adolescents a whole new set of mental tools (ReCAPP, 2007).. They are now able to analyse situations logically in terms of cause and effect. They can appreciate hypothetical situations. This gives them the ability to think about the future, evaluate alternatives, and set personal goals. They can engage in introspection and mature decision-making (ReCAPP, 2007). As a result of their growing cognitive abilities, most developing adolescents will become more independent, take on increased responsibilities, such as babysitting, summer jobs, or household chores, shift their school focus from play-centered activities to academics, begin to consider future careers and occupations, look to peers and media for information and advice, begin to develop a social conscience: becoming concerned about social issues such as racism, global warming and poverty, develop a sense of values and ethical behaviour, recognizing the value of traits such as honesty, helpfulness, caring for others (APA, 2002).

As adolescents begin to exercise their new reasoning skills, some of their behaviours may be confusing for adults (ReCAPP, 2007). It is normal for them to argue for the sake of arguing, jump to conclusions, be self-centred, constantly find fault in the adult's position.

Adolescents are faced with the large task of establishing a sense of identity when we look at their emotional development (ReCAPP, 2007). The new cognitive skills of maturing adolescents give them the ability to reflect on who they are and what makes them unique. Identity is made up of two components: Self-concept: The set of beliefs about oneself, including attributes, roles, goals, interests, values and religious or political beliefs (ReCAPP, 2007). Self-esteem: How one feels about one's self-concept. The process of developing a sense of identity involves experimenting with different ways of appearing, sounding and behaving (ReCAPP, 2007). Each adolescent will approach this exploration in his or her own unique way.

Adolescents must also develop relationship skills that allow them to get along well with others and to make friends (ReCAPP, 2007). The specific skills that they need to master as part of their emotional development include; recognizing and managing emotions, developing empathy, learning to resolve conflict constructively and developing a cooperative spirit (ReCAPP, 2007). One of the greatest social changes for adolescents is the new importance of their peers. This change allows them to gain independence from their families. By identifying with peers, adolescents start to develop moral judgment and values, and to explore how they differ from their parents (APA, 2002).

Young adolescents are very concerned with being accepted by a peer group. This great desire to belong can influence some to engage in activities that they normally would not consider. By middle adolescence, the intensity of involvement with a peer group gives way to more intimate friendships and romances. Peer groups may remain important particularly for adolescents belonging to ethnic minority groups. For these teens, peer groups provide a much-needed sense of belonging within the majority culture (APA, 2002).

The relationship between adolescents and their parents is changed by the adolescent's social development. However, the shift in the adolescent's social world from family to peers does not lessen the importance of the family in the adolescent's life. Family closeness has been confirmed as the most important protective factor against certain high-risk behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, and early initiation of sexual intercourse. The adolescent's new desire for independence leads to increasing conflicts between adolescents and their parents. Minor conflicts and bickering are considered to be normal as teens and their parents adjust to their changing relationship. The characteristics of an adolescent's community can also have a great impact on his or her social development.

All of the developmental changes that adolescents experience prepare them to experiment with new behaviours (ReCAPP, 2007). This experimentation results in risk-taking, which is a normal part of adolescent development (Hamburg, 1997; Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). Engaging in risk-taking behaviour helps adolescents to shape their identities, try out their new decision-making skills, develop realistic assessments of themselves and gain peer acceptance and respect (Graber, Lewinsohn, Seeley & Brooks-Gunn, 1997). Unluckily, some of the risks that adolescents follow may pose a real threat to their health and well-being. These include motor vehicle accidents, pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, and cigarette smoking. Adolescents need guidance to channel the drive toward risk-taking behaviour into less dangerous and more constructive pursuits.

Social and academic problems are more common during adolescence than at any other time during childhood. Multiple systems are involved in this preparation and orientation, resulting in a complex process that influences adolescent’s thinking and planning about adulthood and future goals. Therefore, ‘adolescence’ can potentially serve as a window of opportunity to influence positive life trajectories (Masten, Obradovic, & Burt, 2006) at a time when significant decisions concerning life can be more strategically made (Stattin & Kerr, 2001). Thinking about the future and constructing perception of oneself in the future might have a bigger role during adolescence than during other developmental stages of life (Trempala & Malmberg, 2002).

Statement of the Problem
Adolescence is often conceptualized as a crucial period for youth in preparation for adulthood. Recent data suggest that the transition to adulthood is one of the most active time frames for defining one’s identity and personal aspirations (Padilla-Walker, Barry, Carroll, Madsen, & Nelson, 2008). As they (adolescents) reach this stage, they encounter some challenges in their social and academic life.

The social challenges encountered by adolescents include among other things the difficulties with their choices of career since it forms part of an individual’s subjective view of his or her future (Seginer, 2009). It forms part of the search for identity of adolescents and therefore forms part of the social challenges of adolescents. In their choice of career, because there are no vocational trainings to guide them as to what they will be able to do, they end up in the wrong careers. They do not identify their interest, their capabilities, their strengths and weaknesses as well as the type of career or vocation that will suit their personalities. In their relationship with the opposite sex, as they mature into adulthood, there is a natural attraction for the opposite sex. The girls tend to be more interested in boys and vice-versa. Their relationship with the opposite sex becomes more important to them than anything else and they end up getting much more hurt when there is a breakup. During these stages, their emotions and feelings direct them, thus making it difficult to resist sex, alcohol and drugs.

In their relationship with their parents, because of the rapid neurological, cognitive and social changes that occur in adolescence, a social-cognitive dilemma is created for the youth: the integration of new and diverse experiences in relation to the world and oneself. Adolescence also presents an attachment dilemma. In other words, maintaining connection with parents while at the same time exploring new social roles away from the family and developing attachment relationships with peers and romantic partners create challenges for them. They tend to listen more to their peers than take advice from their parents (Padilla-Walker et al., 2008). In their academic life, they face challenges in relation to their study habits and behavioural problems; deviance, disturbances, crises, violence, unrest and all anti-social behaviours (Ryan, Deci & Grolnick, 1995). The researcher has observed that several young people are caught in these issues. These challenges if they remain unchecked can affect the adult lives of students and ultimately affect the very fiber of society.

In Ghana, some studies have been carried out to assess the challenges faced by adolescents. This includes studies such as that of Agbemafah (1991), Dickson (1991), Forde (1997), Glozah (2013) and Akwei (2015). All these studies found that adolescents face several challenges socially and academically. However, most of these studies have focused on only one aspect of the challenges faced by adolescents. The studies have either focused on academic challenges or personal-social challenges alone. The current study therefore sought to bridge this gap by combining both social and academic challenges in a single study.

Also, to the best knowledge of the researcher, a study on social and academic challenges of adolescents had not been conducted in the Cape Coast Metropolis where the researcher undertook the study. Hence, in view of the myriads of social and academic challenges that adolescents face (Padilla-Walker et al., 2008; Ryan, Deci & Grolnick, 1995), the researcher investigated the social and academic challenges of adolescents in Senior High School in the Cape Coast Metropolis.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 134 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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