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Domains of Adolescent Development in Akeelah and the Bee
Transcript of Domains of Adolescent Development in Akeelah and the Bee
Moral, Religious, and Character Development
Attention Span - Akeelah doesn’t demonstrate the typically short attention span of kids her age. She studies for the spelling bee for hours and hours.
Idealism - Akeelah is idealistic in her view of how life should be. She wants her father to still be alive, and believes that if he were, everything would be going great and she would be allowed to participate in the spelling bee. She believes her mother should support her in her spelling bee endeavors, and wants her to be present at the events. She does not think about her old friends being jealous and feeling insecure when she acquires new friends and social status. She assumes that everyone will be happy for her.
Argumentative - Akeelah shows that, like many adolescents, she has developed the skills for arguing. Rather than accepting her mother’s refusal to let her participate in the spelling bee, Akeelah attempts to reason with her and argues against her mother’s decision.
Perceptive - Middle schoolers have keen powers of perception and are difficult to fool. Using few clues and little evidence, Akeelah guesses that Dr. Larabee had a daughter who died.
Need for Relevance - Akeelah demonstrates a young adolescent’s typical need for relevance when she asks Dr. Larabee why she has to read so many books. She does not see the books as being relevant or helpful in her attempts to prepare for the spelling bee. Once Dr. Larabee explains why the books are important, she shows renewed interest in using them to study.
Akeelah is smart, but does not want to appear that way in front of her classmates. She is struggling to establish her own identity and does not want to be different than her peers. She initially tells her principle that she does not want to participate in the school spelling bee because her peers will call her a “freak” and a “brainiac.”
Differentiated self – she acts differently with her friends at school than she eventually does with Dr. Larabee. Even though she is intelligent and knows an abundance of words, Akeelah talks “ghetto” in order to fit in with her friends.
Akeelah demonstrates young adolescents’ need for social connections and relationships with others. She is friendly to everyone, and jumps at the chance to participate in a study group with a group of potential new friends. She even attempts to reach out to Dylan (a boy who has not been friendly to her) by inviting him over to her hotel room to hang out with her other friends the night before the national spelling bee.
Akeelah does not seem to show any signs that she is developing physically. She still has a child-like body (no breasts, narrow hips).
Sexuality – Akeelah shows few signs that she has begun to develop sexually. She seems to view the males around her no differently than her female friends. The only sign that she may have begun to experience interest in the opposite sex is when she kisses her Hispanic friend on the cheek. However, even that interaction seems more like an innocent, friendly sign of affection.
Body image – Akeelah also does not seem to place much importance on body image. The movie never depicts her spending time contemplating her appearance, fixing her hair, experimenting with makeup, or expressing insecurities about her looks. Even though she wears glasses—which some kids may feel insecure about—she does not seem to mind wearing them.
Akeelah is going through identity moratorium when she ventures outside her identity she has with her friends and decides to go for the spelling bee. Later in the movie, she shows signs of moving into identity achievement by embracing her role in the spelling bees (at least in certain aspects of her life).
Self Esteem – Akeelah tells Dr. Larabee that the only thing she is good at is spelling. She doesn’t seem to pay much attention to worrying about her physical appearance, even though this is usually the most prevalent concern in a middle school student’s life. She shows much more interest in her academic competence, and also in her relationships with friends. Positive self-esteem is enhanced when a high position can be earned among one’s peers. As Akeelah continues to succeed in the spelling bees, her confidence grows and she seems to gain self-esteem.
When adolescents move from a smaller elementary school to the larger, less personal middle school, they may experience emotional discomfort. This can be applied to Akeelah’s move from being an inconspicuous student in her class, to a participant in her school’s small spelling bee, and eventually to the large national spelling bee. As Akeelah continues to advance, she demonstrates her discomfort by showing signs of nervousness, and expressing fears of inadequacy at times.
Fickleness She shows slight signs of fickleness when she does not want to do the spelling bee at first, and then changes her mind and desperately want to do it. Then she changes her mind once again when she feels like it is too hard. She changes her mind for the third time when she renews her interest and excitement in the spelling bee.
Impulsive - Akeelah shows impulsiveness when she decides to board the city bus on her own to travel to the wealthy school. She does not think about getting home on time, her mother being worried, and the danger involved with traveling alone.
Piaget’s theory of autonomous morality – Children older than 10 have learned that rules are created by people, and can therefore be negotiated. Akeelah demonstrates this characteristic when she disregards her mother’s refusal to let her participate in the spelling bee. Akeelah disobeys her mother’s rules and goes behind her back to train for and participate in the spelling bees. She also bends the rules when she forges her father’s signature on the school permission slip.
Piaget’s theory of autonomous morality is also characterized by adolescents’ ability to see situations from multiple perspectives and the ability to think beyond concerns for oneself. Akeelah demonstrates this moral growth when she places someone else’s needs above her own by intentionally mispelling a word in the national spelling bee so that Dylan can win. Even though she wants to win, she sees that her actions could potentially make Dylan’s father happy with him, and therefore improve Dylan’s situation.
By Amanda Hemann