Puberty is the sum of all the changes that occur in the growing girl or boy as the individual passes from childhood into adulthood. This phase of rapid physical and psychological and social changes prepares the child into a period of full sexual maturation. Furthermore, this phase is manifested by growth spurt and development of secondary sex characteristics. Growth hormones are the reason for the development of secondary sex characteristics which can be described as the changes in the outward appearance that signal the onset of reproductive maturity.
These include growth of pubic hair, changes in the appearance of sex organs and breast development. Accompanying these changes is the feeling of anxiety and shame of these rapid bodily changes so without proper guidance during this turbulent stage in his life may not prepare him for the more complex problems of adulthood. Not all adolescents undergo these changes at the same time; some mature late while some mature early. The onset of puberty can occur as early as age 7 years in girls and 9 and ? in boys or as late as 13 in girls and 13 ? in boys.
In girls, the interval between the first sign of puberty and complete physical maturation can be as short as six years and in boys, the comparable interval ranges from about two years to five years (J. Tanner, 1962. ) For the boys, the sign that he has reached sexual maturity is termed spermache. Spermache is the first ejaculation of the seminal fluid generally occurring a year after the beginning of growth of his primary sexual organ, the penis. On the other hand, girls have reached sexual maturation with the onset of her first menstruation and the term for this occurrence is menarche.
Psychological Effect of Puberty The bodily changes during adolescent stage can affect teen’s behaviour and psychological functioning. The increase of hormone testosterone is directly linked to the increase in boy’s sex drive. Bodily changes will also make the children more conscious with his physical appearance. There is also a change in how others react to the adolescents’ new image in turn these reaction will elicit change in the adolescents’ self-image. During this period, the adolescent also sets high ideals, dreams and aspirations.
They wanted to act like an adult but society cannot yet grant him the privileges that adults enjoy. In wanting to reach his high ideals, adolescents can realize that they cannot reach those ideals and this leads to loss of self-confidence and may experience a feeling of inadequacy. Timing and Tempo of Puberty There are factors which can affect the timing and tempo of puberty. One of the prime reasons is the genetic makeup of the individual. There are studies which reveal that African-American female mature earlier than their American counterparts.
Study also shows that maturity occurs much earlier in prosperous countries as compared to less developed countries and scientists believe that better nutrition, improved sanitation and better disease control caused the early maturation. Those teens that have experienced maturity during normal period have the high incidence of having less emotional and psychological problems than those who matures early or late because they have the right amount of time spent in childhood which can make them cope better with the demands of adolescence (Fundamental Changes in Adolescents, p. 26.).
Reaction to Early Maturation Boys and girls have different reactions when dealing with early maturity. For the girls, it has both positive and negative effects. The positive effect is that when compared with late maturing, early maturing girls are more independent minded, more popular with boys and felt better with their figure. They also dated more frequently. Because of their more independent attitude, they can be more likely to get into trouble at school because they tend to speak their mind without thinking if their comments might hurt another’s feelings.
Girls who mature early also have the tendency to get low grades in class because they are in dates often and they neglect their school duties. Early maturers are treated as more mature by peers and adults so they have the tendency to show adult behaviours and can cope easily with the emotional turmoil brought about by the sudden physical and psychological changes. For boys early maturation mean competitive advantage over peers in the field of sports and in leadership.
They are also more attractive to girls than their awkward looking peers and are often viewed as sophisticated, poised and self-confidence. One disadvantage is that early maturers have less time for childhood games and fun because adults expect them to do more mature roles. There is less time to adjust to physical maturity so they tend to be socially immature. Reaction to Late Maturation Same as with early maturation, boys and girls have different reaction to late maturation. Girls who are late maturers are under less pressure because adults don’t expect her to behave and act maturely.
Late maturers also mature at the same time as boys so they are in the same social and psychological level that they don’t have difficulty in forming intimate relationship with the opposite sex. Potential disadvantage of late maturity in boys is that late-maturing boys cannot compete with early maturers in forming boy-girl relationships because they are still conscious with their physical appearance and because they still have underdeveloped muscles and hoarse voice and this leads to the development of negative self-concept: a feeling of inadequacy, a feeling of hopelessness and rejection.
It is easy to spot late and early maturers. Physically, their difference is marked by their body built. Those with athletic build are likely to be early maturers but those with slight build are the late maturers. Knowing the potential advantages and disadvantages of these types of adolescents may help the parents and adult guardians understand the crisis they face and can easily formulate methods to help these adolescents pass this rite of passage and built a positive self-image.
References: Tanner, J. M. , 1962, Growth at Adolescence, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell Scienti®c Publications). “Development Needs of Children and Adolescents”, retrieved May 20, 2010 at the website http://www. bhojvirtualuniversity. com/ss/online_cou/b_ed/secp_02/cp2b2u2p3. asp “The Fundamental Changes of Adolescence” retrieved on May 20, 2010 at the website http://highered. mcgraw-hill. com/sites/dl/free/0072414561/16698/ch01. pdf