Understanding the Needs of Youths-at-Risk

Youths typically refer to a group of young people age 12 to 21 years old; therefore, youths-at-risks refers to this group of young people who have been exposed to a “combination of interrelated biological, psychological and social factors that result in a greater likelihood for the development of delinquency, substance abuse, or other related anti-social and self-destructive behaviours” (IMYC, 2002). Programmes run by some organisations like the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) hope to prevent these youths from engaging in risky behaviours as stated above.

In the course of our work at Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), we are exposed to children and youths with co-morbidities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) and conduct disorder (CD). It is important for us to be able to understand what these different co-morbidities are, as well as, the difficulties that these groups of children and youths are facing. This is crucial as it helps us to identify the psychosocial needs of these children and youths so that we able to help them manage their behaviours better.

In order for us to do this, we should also familiarise ourselves with Erikson’s Theory on Youths. According to Erikson, every individual develops his personality in a series of stages. Erikson believes that there are eight psychosocial stages as shown in figure 1.

Erikson suggests that every individual will go through conflicts in each stage which may either help or impede the development of his psychological quality. Conflicts, if resolved, will most likely lead to a favourable outcome while those which are not, will most like lead to an unfavourable outcome. Both favourable and unfavourable outcomes for these eight stages are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Favourable and Unfavourable Outcome of Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages.

Therefore, when we are able to understand at which stage these children or youths are at, then we will be able to figure out the psychosocial needs that are not met based on their profiles and background. When these needs are known, then we can think of possible strategies to help them overcome this.

More about Nur Ashabiena Mohd Ashraff, Educational Therapist, Main Literacy Programme