Dennis Barr on Adolescent Development
Dennis Barr is the Director of Program Evaluation at Facing History and Ourselves, as well as a psychologist. He was the principal investigator for the Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded research project that studied the impact and processes of Facing History and Ourselves. The Ostracism Case Study emerged from this project.
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"There are aspects to this case that I feel do reflect normal aspects of development. For example, grappling with what friendship means, and what a real friend is, versus what it means to be part of a group. Learning about confidences and trust and how – what learning about yourself and how you respond when you’ve been betrayed, or learning what it is that you need from a friend, versus what you need from a peer group. That’s all part of – natural part of growing up.
Conflict is a normal part of development, a normal part of relationships. How you deal with conflict is, in this case, an – this is an extreme example of how young people dealt with conflict in a way that was harmful. Young people need opportunities to step back and reflect on how they’re impacting other people, and to communicate and learn to communicate in relationships about how they’re being affected by other people.
The extent of this, of the suffering that took place around this case, specifically Sue’s suffering, is not inevitable. We need to work really hard in schools to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen. The original conflict and fight-- an absolutely normal part of growing up, learning about who you can trust with a confidence and who you can’t."