How Gender, Friends, Role Models Affect On Personal Development

Looking back to millions of years it is amazing to see where the human race currently stands and how far we have come. When looking at how many different organisms exist just on planet earth, one may be fortunate to have been given the opportunity to live in the life of the most developed and intelligent organism to ever walk this planet we call earth. However, as we have progressed from the hunter gatherer stage and moved toward a new stage of life where one no longer has to compete at an intense level for survival, the human races outlook on life has drastically changed. Humans are no longer competing for survival in everyday life, but instead we have humans that opt to take away their own lives, better known as suicide. Suicide has become more common in today’s modern era and possibly contagious, especially among adolescent females that feel social connections to others that play a vital role in their lives.

In our everyday lives we are exposed to all different forms of communication with people, whether it be interpersonal, non-verbal, written or oral. Humans experience all these different types of communication from a very young age and due to these types of communication we develop relationships with other humans (Bearman 2004). It all begins in the school system for children. By attending school every day we are surrounded by other humans typically in the same age range and through the education process we are forced to exult our communication skills which leads to the development of relationships with others. All different types of relationships can emerge through communication. For example, someone may develop a positive or a negative relationship with another person, but overall no relationship could be developed without some form of communication with one another. Positive relationships are usually associated with one’s emotional feeling of happiness. Typically, the first positive relationship a young adolescent develops is the one with their parents, for they are the ones that care for them and bring them happiness from a young age (Bearman 2004).

When looking at the opposite of a positive relationship, we are faced with negative relationships amongst humans. The development of a negative relation between two people can either be one sided or mutual, but the factors that cause negative relationships completely depend on the internal emotions and interpretations of a particular individual. No two humans are exactly the same and each interprets forms of communication and language in a different way (Goffman 1959). Negative relationships are often what leads to suicides in both male and female adolescents by causing individual characteristics of depression, low self-stem, and family/social issues (Goffman 1959).

Suicide is now the second or third most frequent cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds in several countries around the world (Bearman 2004). This age is considered to be the adolescent stage because it is the time when one’s brain has not yet fully developed (Goffman 1959). Human personalities are developed based off of experiences. A person develops their personality from the people they typically surround themselves with, this is why it is very common to see similar personalities amongst family members or children of their parents. This mimicry of family member’s personalities is typically common in the earlier years of a human’s life, but as they begin to grow older and are exposed to personalities of others through media we begin the see the development of role models (Abrutyn Mueller 2014).

Role model is defined as “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” Young adolescents typically find a role model by watching and seeing them through the media, more often than not a famous person. This is an indirect form of communication between adolescent and famous individual because the adolescents are not directly communicating with the people they see through the media. According to statistics the exposure and status of one’s role model have an effect on the adolescent. Publicized celebrity suicides produce on average a 2.51 percent jump in adolescent suicide rates (Abrutyn Mueller 2014). However, it is shown that the more publicized a suicide is the greater the effect on suicide behaviors across the country, such as Marilyn Monroe’s which caused a 13 percent increase suicidal behaviors (Abrutyn Mueller 2014). There are also jumps in adolescent suicide rates as a result of fictional television characters committing suicide, but the percent is a lot less consistent (Abrutyn Mueller 2014). Even though statistics do show that adolescent suicide rates rise as a result of highly publicized suicide, there is not enough information to determine if these events play a role above an individual’s personal circumstances (Abrutyn Mueller 2014).

Personal circumstances are a major part of how an individual goes about their life. One’s general outlook on life effects how they go about their everyday life from an emotional stand point. There are infinite amounts of different factors that play a role in how someone feels emotionally. Some factors that play a role are substance use, social relationships with friends and family, and self-esteem status to name a few (Bearman 2004). Suicidal thoughts and feelings can occur within an individual’s mind based off of their emotional status and past experiences. For example, an adolescent that has had a friend or family member attempt suicide is more susceptible to experiencing suicidal thoughts than a person who has not experienced this in their lives. According to statistics males and females have the same odds of having suicide thoughts if either of them experience a family member attempting suicide, with males at 2.14 and females at 1.74 (Bearman 2004). Also in regards to relationships, a friend’s attempted suicide jumps the male odds of suicidal thoughts to 2.73 and the females to 2.37(Bearman 2004). Relationships are a big factor in adolescents lives especially friends because they are typically the people that one associates similarities in characters with. However, overall studies find that adolescent females are more susceptible than males to adopting suicidal behaviors (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004).

Statistics prove that adolescent females are more likely to develop suicidal behaviors based off of social relationships than males. The reasoning for this has yet to be figured out based off of statistics referring to frequency of these thoughts in females. However, some hypotheses have been developed as to why this may occur. Some of the ideas developed are that females typically form extremely close relationships with others that they consider their friends while males do not. In addition, females tend to keep their quantity of friends at a smaller level than that of males, therefore when one of their friend’s attempts suicide the females are effected more mentally than males. For adolescent males who had experienced suicidal thoughts, but had a dense and interlocked friendship group, they were less likely than males with a weak disconnected group of friends to attempt suicide (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004). While for females having a dense friend group played little to no role in their attempts of suicide, decreasing odds by only .333 (Bearman 2004).

When looking for certain factors that cause suicide rates to rise among adolescents, one should consider the self esteem levels of an individual that is experiencing suicidal behaviors. One’s self esteem is a representation of their confidence within themselves. There are many people in the world who thrive because of their self-esteem and even increase their own by attempting to bring down others. For both males and females having a high self-esteem lowered the likelihood that they will experience suicidal thoughts (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004). There are a lot of factors that play into someone’s selfesteem levels, with a major factor being how others view them (Goffman 2004). Think about how you feel in an embarrassing moment, such as tripping in public. Mentally you feel distraught and humiliated that everyone saw you. This is exactly what self-esteem is, an emotionally reflection of how one judges and views themselves. A constant feeling of low self-esteem often leads to clinical depression in a person, which is often a major factor in suicidal thoughts.

Many people that face depression are at a high risk of suicide. Both social support and suicide suggestions are found to have substantial independent effects on suicide behavior (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004). Both of these occur directly and indirectly through depression. It has been found that receiving mental support by family members strongly reduces depression, but receiving support from nonfamily members tends to increase depression (Abrutyn Mueller 2014). It is statistically proven that depression in more strongly related to suicidal behaviors in females as opposed to males (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004). In a book by Kay Jamison she talks about her and a friend who both suffered from manic-depressive illness. Both of them had great lives with successful jobs, but due to their illness they could not seem to find themselves happy (Jamison 1999). Both of them had been battling depression their entire lives and even knew how to control it, but due to their mental illness her friend could not control his depression and ended up committing suicide. The effect of losing someone so close to her had extremely negative effects on Kay, resulting in her depression reaching an even higher level (Jamison 1999). The effect of the death of someone so close to Kay follows the statistics of what one would have expected her reaction to be, which was an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. When one loses a friend to suicide that they have close connection to it is statistically proven that they will feel more inclined to commit suicide as well (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004).

Additional factors that lead to suicidal thoughts are alcohol use. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the world and more often than not, underage drinking does occur. In a study testing twenty-five different cases the overall results indicated a direct association between alcohol consumption and suicidal thoughts and attempts (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004). Additionally, the results found that the consumption of hard alcohols such as liquors and spirits had a higher outcome of suicidal ideations in adolescents than other types of alcohol. In the addition to the drug of alcohol, hard drugs such as cocaine also indicated a positive association with suicide attempts. The use of drugs a lot of the times are used for the effects of being antidepressants. When an individual is feeling down or depressed they resulted to drug use to make themselves feel better, the result was once they were off the drug their feelings of depression increased even more (Bearman 2004). For both hard drug and alcohol use the results did not show any difference between their effects on adolescent males verses females. Relating back to the original study of how famous individuals effect adolescents, the use of drugs and the discussion of their use through music could incline an adolescent to experiment with either type of drug and as a result develop suicidal behaviors (Bearman 2004).

Appearance of an individual has drastically changed in the past fifty years. Nowadays there are people wearing all different styles and colors of clothing. Along with appearance from a fashion standpoint there is the type of appearance that has an effect on suicide rates, and that is physical appearance (Goffman 1959). Fitness is one of the most easily and distinguishable traits of a human and often times influences one’s first impression of another. Studies found that individuals with a high body mass index were at .981 odds of suicidal thoughts for males while females were at a higher level of 1.014 (Bearman 2004). As stated in the previous paragraphs, we live in a society nowadays where people will attempt to bring down others self-esteem because it brings theirs up. For those people that possess the high self-esteem it is great for them, however they are not the ones who are at risk for suicidal ideations. It is the ones that they are bullying, such as males and females that have a high body mass index.

Overall, with all of the studies done by Seth Abrutyn and Anna Mueller and the statistics from references that they used, the overall theme is that adolescent females are at a much higher risk of suicidal behaviors (Abrutyn Mueller 2014). Throughout the studies and statistical test done, there were a consistent amount of cases that put females at odds of developing suicidal behaviors that did not affect males at all. For example, studies showed that females were inclined to feel suicidal from forced sexual relations and having gotten into fights in the past year (Bearman 2004). Meanwhile the test stated no significant effect on the male adolescent population (Evans Hawton Rodham 2004).

Through the process of years of gathering data to run statistical tests, it was able to prove that suicidal behaviors and thoughts are contagious and that adolescent females are more at risk for developing these behaviors than males. Several different questions were asked of the adolescent males and females to see if there was any particular factor that lead to a higher risk for developing such behaviors. Statistics showed that the highest odds for developing such behaviors occurred when a female’s close friend have attempted suicide or a role model of hers had actually committed suicide. Throughout the years of earths existence, humans have changed in the way of not viewing death as such a tragedy as they had in the past. An individual no longer values the meaning of life as our ancestors once had many years back. By undergoing statistical test like these, programs can be made to help protect the adolescent males and females that are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

10 September 2019
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