- Erica Frydenberg (2008) Adolescent Coping: Advances in Theory, Research and Practice. Routledge. United Kingdom.
- Holzman, L. (2009) Vygotsky at Work and Play. Routledge: London.
Erica Frydenberg (2008) Adolescent Coping: Advances in Theory, Research and Practice. Routledge. United Kingdom.
Adolescent Coping is a very well written, insightful piece written by an author whose background is steeped in research seeking to decipher the adolescent world with a particular focus on coping. Erica Frydenberg has a produced a rounded body of work in this field and is justifiably very well known.
The book is separated into thirteen chapters which can stand alone and range from defining coping to measuring coping to factors as affecting an individual’s ability to cope. Positive aspects of coping are also justified and explored in lesser detail within the book. The engaging style of the work means it can be enjoyed cover to cover or as reference to an area of particular interest.
Each chapter features comments from young people about their experiences of coping and whilst these can feel ‘tagged on’ in places, overall they add reality, warmth and even humour to the text and encourage the reader not to lose sight of the young persons experiences which remain at the heart of the work throughout.
The work was extremely well researched and intelligently constructed and I particularly liked the way the author had taken such care to consider all aspects of adolescent coping across not only different groups within her own location but internationally and across differing cultures, sub cultures and communities. In this it pushed the boundaries beyond the obvious sub topics such as stress and gender and coping and was able to sustain the reader’s interest throughout.
Frydenberg spoke throughout with a clear and genuine interest and enthusiasm for her topic which was compelling and the inclusion and detailed reporting of both her own published material and that of others provided not only an opportunity to develop a detailed insight into the central concept of coping but also the chance to examine a variety of assessment tools which may have direct application to the clinical care environment.
One of the key strengths of this book is its clear intention and enthusiasm to propel the findings in the literature beyond a detailed summary of contemporaneous research in this field to give clear direction to those readers wishing to develop practical tools and skills to assess and facilitate improved coping skills in young people with confidence.
Whilst, this is a book that is weighted in detailed content and a valuable read for anyone working with young people, I found the style, presentation and content appeared to primarily target an audience of professionals established within the fields of psychology, education and youth work. Significantly, I would suggest that the central concept of ‘coping’ from the perspectives of psychologists may limit its immediate meaning and appeal to other professionals who work with young people to whom the term may have rather negative connotations. As a reviewer with a School Health Advisor background I have worked extensively with young people and equate the term coping to meaning to endure or tolerate, which, as Frydenberg is keen to say, is far from the full mean of the term from a psychologist’s perspective. One could argue that for some, adolescence may be a time of overall positivity in which they progress largely uneventfully with no major angst in the process. I felt overall that the potential for lack of appeal to this broader audience was somewhat unfortunate as the content was very relevant to health professionals, particularly those providing child and adolescent mental health services. The discussion about the Best of Coping programme was most interesting and I could see the potential for health professionals working in partnerships with education, youth or social work colleagues to develop the programme effectively, drawing on their varied perspectives. The inclusion of case studies, drawn from practice helped the reader see the clear potential for development of the tool in pratice situations. Perhaps clearer links to the enabling readers to review and purchase associated teaching materials could have been made within the book.
This book is not a basic introductory reader into adolescence as it has an expectation of understanding of adolescent needs from an informed perspective. However, for the experienced professional working in psychology, education, social work or health I would recommend it warmly for its potential to make a real difference to our understanding of the coping strategies young people use and reasons why they may experience difficulties coping.
In summary, Erica Frydenberg has produced a robust book which bridges theoretical concepts about coping with the need for practical application to facilitate improved coping mechanisms from a sound evidence base. The book is a valuable read for any experienced professional and can support increased understanding and insight into the intriguing, private world of adolescents.
Alison J Cavanagh
Lecturer in Child Health Nursing
University of Salford.
© 2012 Alison J Cavanagh
Holzman, L. (2009) Vygotsky at Work and Play. Routledge: London.
In ‘Vygotsky at work and Play’ Lois Holzman, a developmental psychologist presents a qualitative inquiry relating the work of the psychologist Lev Vygotsky to ordinary children, young people and adults in a variety of everyday settings. Whilst Vygotsky’s discoveries are central to this book they are intertwined with the work of the philosopher Fred Newman who developed social therapy as a therapeutic approach. The result of this partnership, manifest in an inquiry, which provides a unique and subjective interpretation of Vygotsky’s ideas and approach to social therapy.
In Chapter 1 ‘Methods(s) and Marx(s)’, informed by Vygotsky’s work Holzman’s apparent frustration with psychology and education as being ‘misguided and misguiding’ (pg 5) appears to urge a paradigm shift from one of scientific to qualitative inquiry. In fact Holzman takes the radical stance against paradigmism altogether and in so doing presents ‘Activity theory’ as a new ontology. Based on Vygotsky’s conception of method, as an activity which seeks to generate both the tool and the result simultaneously and continuously, Holzman and Newman present the ‘tool-and-result methodology’ which is therefore practiced rather than applied and neither objective nor subjective. The ‘tool-and-result methodology’ is hence aligned with and presented as relevant for studying human development. It is seen as essential to providing a rich characterisation of the activity of human development.
This Vygotskian inspired ‘tool-and-result methodology’ is developed throughout the text in its application to key learning environments such as the classroom, out of school youth programmes and in the workplace. Integral to each chapter is the development of practice as inspired by Vygotsky’s ideas regarding learning as a social activity, play, identity and the zone of proximal development. For the practitioner the book really seems to emphasise the value of the process rather than merely the product of learning and development. This may prompt practitioners to reconsider their individual practice. In Chapter 3 ‘In the classroom learning to perform and performing to learn’ the cognitive – emotive divide is critiqued to inform a discussion about developmental learning and play. This paves the way for a detailed account of the application of a Vygotskian inspired methodology within a school in order to develop a more challenging and supportive environment which aimed to develop successful learners. This is but one example of many innovations documented within the book which have been inspired by Holzman’s interpretation of Vygotsky’s ideas.
In urging a shift from the scientific paradigm as expressed in the application of a Vygotskian inspired ‘tool-and-result methodology’ the book may well appeal to qualitative researchers eager to advance the ideas of Vygotsky. The application of this methodology to the context of the classroom, out of school youth programmes, the workplace and therapy could make this book of interest to a wide audience which could include psychotherapists, psychologists and educationalists. Whilst Holzman presents an interesting interpretation of Vygotsky’s work in order to appreciate and balance the discussion and subsequent application to practice prior knowledge and understanding of Vygotsky’s ideas seems essential. This text will therefore be useful in complimenting and indeed challenging an already existing knowledge of Vygotskian theory.
Elizabeth Charnock – Lecturer in Nursing (Child Health)
The University of Salford.
© 2012 Elizabeth Charnock