relationship of Mark, an adolescent boy age 17, and his father. Up until his mid-teens Mark was an underachiever and was overweight. He was relatively unmotivated in school, did not asset himself, and shied from confrontations. These aspects of his life affected his relationship with his peers and family. In his mid-teens several events occurred that resulted in Mark becoming more assertive and developing a more identified sense of self. These events resulted in positive changes but also led to many confrontations and moderate levels of strife with his father. The events and the conflicts with his father are discussed in terms of Mark's biological, psychosocial, cognitive, and moral development along with the concept of psychological distancing.
Mark is a 17-year-old male who lives with his mother, father, and younger brother Roger. Mark is a senior in high school. His father is an electrician at an automobile assembly plant with a high school education. Mark's mother has worked as a beautician and as a secretary but for the last four years has stayed at home and taken care of the house. She dropped out of high school. His brother is three years younger than him. As a child Mark was born at full term and met his developmental milestones (walking, talking, etc.) at the expected times. His overall physical and cognitive development has been fairly typical and there is no history of developmental delay, developmental disabilities, or other issues. His grades throughout elementary school and middle school were average to low average, despite being bright. Mark seemed bored with school and unorganized in his approach to his work. He was evaluated for ADHD and learning abilities while in grade school as his parents and teachers believed that his school performance was lower than his potential, but the evaluations failed to find any evidence of these disorders. Later, when in middle school and early high school his father started telling Mark that he was "lazy" and often, especially after report cards were received by his parents, his father would yell at him for not performing better in school. Typically for a week after report cards were received his father would make Mark stay home and do homework, even if mark did not have any homework to do. His father would not assist Mark, nor help him with the work or check it, but he would not let Mark leave the house after coming home from school. Mark would simply stay in his room for a couple of hours and then come out telling his parents that he was finished with his homework and spend the rest of the evening watching television. After a week the grounding would be over and Mark would return to his usual routine of coming home, eating dinner, and then going out and hanging out with a few of his friends in the neighborhood. His grades remained in the average to low average range throughout middle school.
In terms of his relationships with his peers, Mark was rather tall and heavy for his age throughout elementary and most of middle school. This led to him often feeling as though he was the "fat kid" in school. He was teased at times by his peers and younger brother for being fat. As a result he found it difficult to deal with the typical flighty confrontations that male peers at this age group typically have as he always found himself feeling that he did not measure up to most of his peers. When they got into a verbal squabble his peers would call him "fat" or "fat ass" or something along those lines and he did not know how to handle it. These names hurt him and led to him often making negative comparisons with his male peers. They got better grades than him, were able to run faster, and Mark felt that he did not perform as well as most of his male peers in competitive team athletics and in gym class. This added to his feelings that he often did not measure up to his peers. He avoided competitive team sports, even though he actually was a good baseball and football player in his gym classes. Being larger than most of his peers, Mark was physically stronger than them and when there was a fight or scuffle most males his age would not engage him, but Mark did not like to fight or engage in aggressive activities, even if he was being picked on or bullied. After a while some males in school realized that Mark would not fight back, and routinely bullied him. Again this reflected a long-standing feeling of inadequacy and a desire not to put himself in a position where he would confront someone.
Mark's relationship with girls in middle school was also strained. While many of his friends began going steady and to school dances in middle school, Mark never had a girlfriend or went to a dance. He was shy around girls and did not know how relate to them adding to his poor self-image.
Mark tended to daydream quite a bit in class and used his allowance money from doing chores such as cutting grass or shoveling snow to go to the movies. His favorite movies were martial arts films and action movies. He admired the depiction of martial artists in the movies as a sort of super-hero, always in control of himself and able to overcome any obstacle. Mark imagined himself as a martial arts master and this seemed to be an outlet for his frustrations. When he was 15 years-old Mark asked his father to enroll him in a local karate school as a Christmas present. Mark's father consented, telling Mark that after a month he expected Mark would quit the karate training. However, Mark gravitated to the karate classes and went to as many as he could. Soon he began to lose a lot of weight which resulted in him needing new clothes. Mark's father complained of the new expenses of buying new clothes and the ongoing cost of the karate, threatening to stop paying for the classes. However, other changes occurred as well. In the tenth grade, when Mark was 16 years-old, he began getting A and B. grades in all of his classes. He also got asked by one of the football coaches in school to try out for the football team, but as this would interfere with his karate classes Mark did not try out.
Marked practiced karate everyday and also began running two to four miles a day and began lifting weights and exercising in order to better his karate technique. By the time he was 17 years old he was a brown belt and had taken first place in several local competitions. He was extremely proud of this. His friends were now more respectful of him and he found that he could even talk to girls and ask them out on dates (if he could convince his father to give him the car). His interest in martial arts resulted in other benefits. Mark only tried smoking cigarettes once, but decided that smoking did not fit in with his healthy lifestyle. He developed the same attitude regarding the use of drugs and alcohol and did not hang out with peers that engaged in those behaviors. He also noticed that for some reason his schoolwork, which had never interested him much before, was now quite easy. He was surprised at how easy it was to get A and B. grades in subjects that used to confuse him such as math. All he had to do was read the books and practice and rehearse the material, much like he did with his karate.
Mark's relationship with his parents in adolescence was strained for him. When he was in grade school he looked up to his father and admired him; however, when he reached middle school things started to change. His father was a good provider for the family, but rarely took an interest in Mark or his brother's activities. He had high expectations of his children, but spent little time discussing things with them or teaching them. Mark viewed his father as overly critical and unconcerned. He avoided talking to his father or asking him for assistance, because experience had taught him that his father would only criticize him if he did not perform to his expectations or did not do something exactly the way his father did it. Mark's relationship with his mother was pretty much the same. He viewed her as distant and unconcerned.
As Mark began to gain confidence in himself he also began to look at his parents in a more critical light. While he viewed his father as critical and unconcerned up until he was 16 years old he never thought much about how his parents acted or thought. He was never concerned much with their values and their status as parents. Up until this point he never questioned…