Medicine, Mind and Adolescence 1995, X, 1

The Epistemological Principles of Adolescentology

Giuseppe R. Brera

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Adolescentology can be considered a new field of investigation, clinics and teaching defined by the fact it concerns adolescence.

For this reason, Adolescentology is multidisciplinary and not adolescence psychology or medicine.

Adolescentology is first of all a project to gather the scientists’ efforts to study the period of adolescence.

Our efforts must be addressed at creating a scientific reality focusing on meaning, objectives and methods of what we are doing to avoid falling into dogmatic and dangerous positivism and empiricism.

1) Meaning

The question of meaning in adolescentology poses ethical questions, because every method of research and its application must first give ethical answers to the fundamental question of existence.

For example an answer given to an adolescent who demands to the medical doctor contraception or abortion will depend from doctor's ethical orientation and from his/her affective maturity and will permit important acts concerning life or death and the adolescent’s mental health. Doctor’s existence is involved as the adolescent’s one and doctor’s values will be determinant in order to address the adolescent to cope with his own problem.

In the same way the items chosen for a questionnaire will draw a mental reality in adolescents’ life and imply ethic decisions about the possibilities of choice offered to adolescents.

For this reason we have criticized a kind of a spread folk-way to build inventories and questionnaires, without any respect for adolescents’ freedom and we have proposed a new way which can respect adolescents’ life, with only open questions without choices among answers.

The Journal "Medicine, Mind and Adolescence", as the World Federation and Society of Adolescentology, adopt as ethical code the Universal Declaration of Youth’ and Rights and Duties.

2) Method

We have seen that researchers’ ethical choices determine the quality of methods used to promote a clinical approach or research.

Recently we have proposed a new hermeneutics of human nature which could orientate clinicians and research. This model which takes the name "kairology" from the Greek name "kairos" (opportune moment) , derived from clinical phenomenological studies where "reality" is seen as a final result of the process of human being to existence. According to this model human nature is not an expression of determinate biological and psychological laws but the result of possibilities offered and created by the human being and his own possibilities and quality of coping. The epistemological model up to now used to define human nature appears out-dated and it appears relative to possibilities and quality of coping. This revolutionary approach to epistemology is possible due to recent psychoneuroimmunological physiological interactionist studies and theories.

Quality of coping is seen as an answer to the three dimensional ontological and anthropological questions of truth (logos), love (ethos) and beauty (este). Human nature appears relative to possibilities and to "quality" in answering these questions.

In research and clinical application on adolescence this approach draws an holistic and interactionist perspective round the new concept of "possibility of coping" and "quality of coping". The Cartesian barriers between body and mind are cancelled by the theory of the quality indeterminate relativity of biological reactions and from the indeterminate relativity of the human coping.

Human nature appears indeterminate because the human possibilities and quality of coping appear unpredictable and entrusted to values, motivations, beliefs, choices. As in art and science, human creativity is unexpected. Biological reactions for the interconnections among nervous, immunitary, central systems are relative to these unexpected possibilities and quality of coping. Mind appears as a symbolic-semantic world constituted by the research of the question of truth, love and beauty and this is determinant for the creation of the synaptic interconnections.

In adolescence the possibility to re-orient one's own life begins because life appears to consciousness as a mystery asking for a meaning in an autonomous way. The big adventure of existence begins with the challenges, his glories, satisfactions and miseries the adolescent goes through.

In adolescence, thanks to new cognitive, affective and existential structures , life is seen and perceived with new eyes. Mysteries of truth, love and beauty ask for a personal answer.

3) Objectives

The adolescentologists' endeavours have to favour the possibilities to answer in an autonomous way the mysteries of existence, that means to enhance possibilities and to improve quality of coping. At this aim objectives of research and clinical methods must cohere.

The results of such clinical and scientific efforts are to favour the formation of a real world well demarcated from a pseudo-real world where truth is separated from false, love is separated from hate, beauty is separated from ugliness.

A new concept of resilience originates from the personal freedom and responsibility of quality of coping and consequently, for health.

Investigations into their methods can favour quality of coping, because these already represent a relationship between observer and observed and therefore a possibility for the subject’s coping, whether he is scientist, clinician or adolescent.

It is obvious that the responsibility of scientists and clinicians is great.

4) Conclusion

Far from being a mere application of a different field of research and clinical applications, adolescentology in the light of kairology and the indeterminate theories of human possibilities and quality of coping, has its own epistemology.

This theoretical framework is reflected on the objectives of the World Federation and Society of Adolescentology:

1) The members of the World Federation and Society of Adolescentology (WFSA) embrace the principles of the Universal Declaration of Youths’ Rights and Duties and support their dissemination through the world.

Members of the WFSA support and endorse campaigns promoting health education and sex education based on awareness, knowledge and freedom of action, motivated by the individual’s sense of responsibility and commitment to truth, love and beauty and respect for human dignity.

Such decisions and actions are based on respect for the sanctity of human nature and for life from conception until death.

2) The researcher will endeavour to help the adolescent understand the mystery of his own subjective existence through introspection's so as to aspire to self realizations, a commitment to sanctity of life, the improvement of inter and intra-personal relations.

Accordingly, the goal is to reach an optimal and satisfying existential reality which provides meaning to existence.

3) While promoting well being ,health and welfare of the adolescent, the researcher and the clinician will endeavour to help adolescents reveal and fulfil their creative potential thus discovering, experiencing and achieving existential significance and self realization.

Key Words: Adolescentology, Epistemology, Coping, Meaning, Kairology.

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