Back in 1930, Margaret Mead published her book "Coming of Age in Samoa" from her field work in Ta'u Island in the Manu'a Islands of American Samoa. Sometimes heralded but mostly disputed both by anthropologists and Samoans, it remains a well-read book. Mead has been criticized by Samoans for projecting her own ideas about adolescence into her writings.
In 1983, five years after Mead had died, Derek Freeman published "Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth," in which he challenged all of Mead's major findings. In 1988, he participated in the filming of Margaret Mead in Samoa, directed by Frank Heimans, which claims to document two of Mead's original informants, now middle-aged women and converted to Evangelical Christianity, swearing that the information they provided Mead when they were teenagers was false.
"She must have taken it seriously," one of the girls would say of Mead on videotape years later, "but I was only joking. As you know, Samoan girls are terrific liars when it comes to joking. But Margaret accepted our trumped up stories as though they were true." If challenged by Mead, the girls would not have hesitated to tell the truth, but Mead never questioned their stories. The girls, now mature women, swore on the Bible to the truth of what they told Freeman and his colleagues."
In any event, Mead's work has served as a lightening rod for the issues about adolescence in all societies.
In my own observations Samoans are very family-oriented, church-going and honor their elders and leaders. And the fa'a Samoa allows personal freedom and expression within that framework.