Physical Changes in Adolescence

About this essay

Children must pass through several stages, or take specific steps, on their road to becoming adults. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services the term adolescence is commonly used to describe the transition stage between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence is also equated to both the terms “teenage years” and “puberty.” They also state that puberty refers to the “hormonal changes that occur in early youth; and the period of adolescence can extend well beyond the teenage years.

In fact, there is no one scientific definition of adolescence or set age boundary.” During the adolescence stage, parents will notice the greatest amount of changes that will occur in their child’s body. The adolescent himself/herself will also take note of these changes. Some of these teenagers may experience theses signs of maturity sooner or later than others.

Adolescence is the time for growth spurts and puberty. The adolescents may grow several inches in height. This is true for both boys and girls at the age of 13 and goes as far as 18 yrs old.

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When it comes to the puberty change then these become more visible since there are several signs. The females start with these changes as early as 8 years old and in males at 9.5 yrs. Sexual and other physical maturation that occurs during puberty is a result of hormonal changes. As a child nears puberty, the pituitary gland increases the secretion of a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone then causes additional effects. In girls, FSH activates the ovaries to start producing estrogen.

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In boys, FSH causes sperm to develop. In boys it is more difficult to know exactly when puberty is coming.

There are changes that occur, but they occur gradually and over a period of time, rather than as a single event. Some of these changes might be the enlargement of the testicles, appearance of pubic hair their voice deepens and at the age of 14 some of them may have even ‘wet dreams’. The girls also happen to experience some changes as well. The first one to be noticed is the developmental of their breast, menstruation period and changes in their body shape start to show. No two teenage bodies are the same so some may experience these physical changes before others.

Physical development is a critical part of adolescence. How adolescents perceive their physical self, that is, what they think they look like and how they feel about it, directly relates to their overall sense of self-worth. Many of these feelings are influenced by their culture, the media, their peers, and their families. They are also influenced by their own initial sense of self-esteem as they enter this rapidly changing phase of physical development. We know that the changes are rapid and often drastic, resulting in rapid growth and physical maturity. Now that we have a sense of some of the important physical changes that occur during adolescence, we can use this information to help us better understand teens. It will also help us recognize their sensitive thoughts and feelings. We can use this information to help us direct them toward positive behavior and outcomes.

By the beginning of late adolescence, many of these changes are nearing completion. This allows teens to gain more acceptance and ownership of their body image. By reminding ourselves of these changes, we can become more sensitive to teens’ growth experiences and treat them with the respect, compassion, and consideration that will help them move smoothly through these physical transitions. Parents can help their children by providing support and by being understanding and tactful during discussions about these changes. Preparing one’s children for the initial onset of puberty (menarche for girls and spermarche for boys) will let them know what to expect. It will also minimize any stress and shame that they may feel without adequate preparation.

The approach to this preparation should be gentle, but informative. It may be given in a manner that is very positive, explaining that these events are “normal” and everyone experiences them once in their life. Once the child understands that this is part of the path to adolescence and a rite of passage, they will view these changes with minimal stress and maximum acceptance.

What does my adolescent understand? The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, adolescents increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at a different rate and may have a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities that may be evident in your adolescent: develops the ability to think abstractly is concerned with philosophy, politics, and social issues thinks long-term sets goals compares one’s self to one’s peers.

As your adolescent begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may occur. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent during these years: wants independence from parents

peer influence and acceptance becomes very important male-female relationships become important may be in love has long-term commitment in relationship How to assist your adolescent in developing socially: Consider the following as ways to foster your adolescent’s social abilities: Encourage your adolescent to take on new challenges. Talk with your adolescent about not losing sight of one’s self in group relations. Encourage your adolescent to talk to a trusted adult about problems or concerns, even if it is not you he/she chooses to talk with. Discuss ways to manage and handle stress.

Provide consistent, loving discipline with limits, restrictions, and rewards. Find ways to spend time together.

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Discuss the concept of adolescence as a social construct

Adolescence describes the transitional stage in a teenager’s life, from childhood to adulthood, where an individual evolves physically, psychologically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. It is a defined social category that is expressed through immaturity and unpredictability and allows an individual to learn and discover their sense of self and identity. The idea of adolescence came into perspective after children were expected to take on adult roles as soon as they were mature enough to, going straight from puberty to adulthood. As society changed and moulded, so did the ideas about life stages, which is evident in Erikson’s theory.

Adolescence is the perfect example of our modern societies ‘social construction’. A social construct is a sociological theory based upon categorised groups in modernised cultures, devised by social constructionists who view knowledge of reality as ‘established’. Adolescence was invented because of these social constructions in westernised cultures which depend entirely on the society in which it is used. Although the concept of adolescence is commonly used and referred to in westernised cultures, it does not exist in most developing countries as they aren’t exposed to the resources which educates them about it. Instead of going through adolescence, teenagers in developing countries go straight from childhood to adulthood and have no time to develop interests or a sense of identity.

Erik Erikson established a theory about the life stages of a human, starting from infancy and ending at maturity (65+). Through the use of a ‘maturation table’, Erikson was able to emphasize a wide and cohesive set of life skills and abilities that function together within an individual. Although he discussed all of the life stages, he focused on the adolescent period more thoroughly as he felt that it was a crucial stage for an individual to develop their identity. The ‘identity versus role confusion’ is a crisis which is typically evident during early to middle adolescence. It outlines the struggle an individual faces in finding stability between developing a sense of forming a unique identity while still being accepted and “fitting in” with society.

Erikson believed that when teenagers adequately navigated their way through this crisis, they would transpire into having a clear understanding of their individual identity and easily share this new ‘self’ with others. However, if an individual is unable to navigate their way through this crisis period, they may be uncertain of who they are which can result in a lack of understanding, leading to disconnection from society and the people around them. If youth become stuck at this stage they will be unable to become emotionally mature adults, according to Erikson’s theory. This period of an individual’s life allows them to investigate possibilities which will lead them to discovering their own identity based upon the result of their explorations.

A westernised culture that embraces the life stage of adolescence are the Indigenous Aboriginals of Australia. The aboriginals embrace adolescence by engaging in a tradition known as “Walkabout”, which passes a boy from childhood to adulthood. Although this tradition has been around for centuries, some Aboriginals in today’s society still partake in it but have adjusted some of the regulations. Walkabout refers to the journey an adolescent boy undertakes, alternating from a laid back playful child to a responsible and mature man. Throughout this deeply spiritual and reflective stage of an Aboriginal boy’s life he will experience a greater connection to the land and nature, which ultimately becomes a part of their identity as a man. At the beginning of time the ancestors created paths for the men to follow while going on Walkabout, leading them through songs and ceremonies that connected them to important waterholes, food sources and landmarks.

These paths were known as ‘songlines’ and essentially enhanced their cultural and spiritual connection with the land and their ancestors. After 6 months of living in the wilderness and exploring who they are as a person, they return with a sense of wholeness within themselves and with world around them enabling them to pass through adolescence and into adulthood. Sub-Saharan Africa lies south of the Saharan desert and is one of the most challenging places for an adolescent to live. Most of the teenagers that live in Sub-Saharan Africa aren’t given the opportunity to experience adolescence as they tend to go straight from being a child to being an adult and taking on fully fledged adult responsibilities. The health and safety of an adolescent girl in this area can be placed at risk, as they are often forced to abandon childhood before they’re ready, limiting their chances to grow as a person, gain an education and a sense of identity.

Being a young girl in Africa, it is not only unfortunate, but also very common to fall pregnant and have a baby at the age of 16 or younger. Due to this, many girls have to leave school and are forced into the world of adulthood. Enduring motherhood at a young age can make a girl particularly vulnerable to violence and most girls that live in Sub-Saharan Africa may experience abuse at least once in their life. Sexual violence and pressured sex is common, especially among female adolescents and young women. Younger mothers are more likely to experience complications or death due to pregnancy and childbearing. In Australia, teenagers experience what it’s like to go through adolescence by developing a sense of identity, achieving independence, developing a positive state of mind and discovering skills for future life stages.

Although all these things can positively impact the period of adolescence, some teenagers may use this to their advantage and can endure in some dangerous behavioural activities. The most common adolescent activity that most Australians experience, is schoolies. Schoolies marks the end of tertiary education and adolescents embark on this by going on a holiday with their friends of choice, partying and experimenting with alcohol and even drugs. From youth to adulthood, schoolies week is seen as a transitional period of an individuals life which marks the transition from the discipline of school to the plunge of freedom that they partake in. In conclusion, adolescence is a period of ones life where an individual can embark on new experiences, gain a sense of identity, learn about themselves and discover who they are as a person. Although not all people go through adolescence, it is a major growing period for a person’s life and if they choose to embrace this positively it will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

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Physical Changes in Adolescence. (2016, Apr 02). Retrieved from

Physical Changes in Adolescence
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