Adolescence As Cultural Toolkit: High School Debate and the Repertoires of Childhood and Adulthood

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Scopus citations


Although adolescence was once treated as a distinct stage of development with distinctive behaviors, values, and beliefs, this model, in its strong form, has increasingly been discarded. Increasingly, scholars have come to recognize that adolescent identity, behavior, and culture are socially constructed, drawing upon disparate sources. Extending and elaborating this perspective, I suggest that adolescence represents a transitory temporal period in which young people draw upon behavioral repertoires characteristic of both adulthood and childhood, while creating cultural traditions that are recognizably distinctive to the period. During these years childhood behaviors have not been fully discarded as inappropriate for impression management, while behaviors of adults, as they are understood, are seen as self-enhancing. That those in the "teenage" years select from both pools of behaviors leads members of this age group to seem simultaneously adult and childish, and problematic in their boundary crossing. The expectations of adults both encourage and disparage drawing from these behavioral pools, dependent on assessments of situational appropriateness. To explore the process by which adolescents draw on alternate cultural toolkits to create selves and cultures that are self-satisfying and socially appropriate, I examine the domain of high school debate through ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20+i
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescence As Cultural Toolkit: High School Debate and the Repertoires of Childhood and Adulthood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this