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Blos, P. (1968). Character Formation in Adolescence. Psychoanal. St. Child, 23:245-263.

(1968). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 23:245-263

Character Formation in Adolescence

Peter Blos, Ph.D.

The problem of character formation is of such a vast scope that almost any aspect of psychoanalytic theory is related to it. This fact tells us at the outset that we deal with a concept of enormous complexity or with integrative processes of the highest order. It is sobering and welcome limitation to concentrate on the adolescent period and investigate, in this circumscribed domain, whether this particular stage of development affords us insight into the formative process of character, and consequently throws light on the concept of character in general. It would not be the first time in the history of psychoanalysis that the nature of a psychic phenomenon becomes illuminated by the study of its formation.

Whoever has studied adolescence, regardless of theoretical background, has been aware of changes in the maturing personality that are generally identified with character formation. Even the untutored observer of youth, or the adult who retrospectively contemplates his own adolescence, cannot fail to notice that, with the termination of adolescence, a new mode of dealing with the exigencies of life is in evidence. Behavior, attitudes, interests, and relationships appear more predictable, show a relatively greater stability, and tend to become irreversible, even under stress.

The psychoanalytic observer of adolescence can attest to these findings. However, he asks himself which psychic mechanisms or which maturational processes are at work in character formation.

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