Adolescent Social Structure

"The lives of adolescents hold a fascination for all of us. We have an enduring faith that the future of our world rests with the young, and so we look to this period of life more than any other for an evaluation of current society and the probable social future" (Ianni 1).

Adolescence is the time of transition between childhood and adulthood-biological development leads to psychological, social and economic changes, toward ever-increasing independence. Adolescence involves the development of a sense of identity; it is a time of questioning of relationships to parents and to peers, and of roles in society.

Relationships with others dwell at the core of the adolescent experience. As teenagers move away from their parents, peer groups play an integral role. Adolescents "place a lot of importance on belonging, on being included, and on being part of a group; group affiliation not only supplies emotional security, but also is a source of status and reputation with motivational properties" (Cotterell 1). The cliques and crowds formed by adolescents define them within in their own social world and to (or against) the adult world as well. The boundaries between these groups can be ambiguous and flexible or extremely rigid and unforgiving. The five students assembled for Saturday detention in The Breakfast Club represent five different groups, stereotyped both by their fellow students and the school administrator who is their warden for the day.

The strict confines of high school status groups separate the characters. Claire and Andrew might know each other, they might even end up at the same big parents-are-out-of-town party, but they do not "hang out." None of the others would even speak to one another under normal circumstances. But Saturday detention is like a parallel universe-it creates a separate sphere where these divisions can eventually be set aside. In the "other world" their punishment creates, the members of the Breakfast Club are allowed to move beyond these social norms and distinctions. They interact with each other, learning the details of the lives beneath the stereotypes, and find common ground.

The Breakfast Club Generation