Proxemics as you know is based quite often on the attachment to those surrounding an individual. We learn this tactic at a young age; to stay close to people we know and trust. As a result, we are begged the question at what point do our proxemics change? How does it change? And finally, what can we learn from this knowledge? Understanding this concept can help increase familiarity between families, and possible improve relationships as well.
Considering we are discussing age differences, it seems wise to begin with proxemics of children. As one would have guessed, Children are used to closer and more intimate proxemics. Children have a strong need to be around those who they feel can protect them, and who provide for them. Independence is a big issue in the study of all proxemics, and children are the perfect example of how much of a non factor proxemics are with no sense of independence. However, as children grow older their need to be close to parents decreases and their want to be near playmates or friends increases. (Burgess, McMurphy 114). This is a common phenomena, but one that is often overlooked in the face of relational issues with family members. What causes children to change so dramatically? One day a child can’t sleep without the reassurance that their parents are in the next room, and the next they are coming home later and later, talking less and less, and soon completely ignoring their parents for the most part. Studies indicate that this occurs for several reasons. Those reasons include: sexuality, social involvement, and curiosity of the world around them. (Terneus, Malone 13). Now that we have a better understanding of the transition from children to adolescent, we can examine teenage proxemics head on.
This is where Proxemics probably become the most “socially distanced”. That is to say, that when a certain age is reached teens will become the most resistant to parenting, and also make the most attempts to remove themselves from intimate or even personal social distances. As Terneus and Malone say, the need to find a partner or a social “anchor” to latch upon is the most critical mission to humans in this age group. Not necessarily to forget your previous attachments, but the more independent someone gets the more they desire to make a name and life for themselves. This is the fuel that changes proxemics with age. Independence. Anything from shaving to driving are all examples of how a teenager can make themselves feel less like a needy kid, and more like a self functioning adult. By having a clearer understanding of the second stage in proxemic development, we can traverse towards the final stage that is adulthood.
Adulthood is the point at which proxemics are controlled more so than just avoided. Being more aware of our surroundings, we understand social codes enough to handle uncomfortable situations by managing our placement and relation to various individuals. For instance “verbal charm” is a tactic often use to control our surroundings. (Roper 16) Inflection monitoring, as well as choice of words can all be used to make aware our situation to other individuals. For example, a person in a crowded room might convince someone to try the snack table, only to give themselves more room to stand in the same place. Many other codes dealing with relational desires, gender, and methodology can apply to adults as well. (Terneus, Malone 13). The premise behind this analysis is show that adults confront reality and proxemics with special tactics, and younger individuals rely on changing social distances to avoid conflict.
So in conclusion, we have learned three traits in human development dealing with proxemics. First, young children are perhaps the most “intimate” of all age groups; in addition, they cling to loved ones more so than any other group. Secondly, adolescents are the opposite of younger groups because they focus on moving away from conflict by adjusting their distances themselves. And finally as we age into adulthood, we develop social skills to help us understand and manage our proximity. As we grow older we desire independence and social control which greatly affect our proxemics. Clearly this is the key to developing social skills early on.
– Burgess, J. W., and D. McMurphy. “The Development of Proxemic Spacing Behavior: Children’s Distances to Surrounding Playmates and Adults Change between 6 Months and 5 Years of Age.” US National Library of Medicine, Nov. 1982. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7152122>.
– Terneus, Sandra K., and Yvonne Malone. “Proxemics and Kinesics of Adolescents in Dual-Gender Groups.” Educational Resources and Information Center, 2004. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
– Roper, Jonathan. “Towards a Poetics, Rhetorics and Proxemics of Verbal Charms.” Directory of Open Access Journals, 2003. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol24/verbcharm.pdf>.