Adolescence and Puberty
Adolescence - Developmental transition between childhood and
adulthood entailing majorphysical, cognitive, and
psychosocial changes. Begins about age 11 or 12 and typically lasts about a decade. Typically
considered to start with the onset of puberty (the process of sexual maturation).
What social conventions do we usually observe for the beginning of
adolescence? for the beginning of adulthood?
Beginning of puberty
When does puberty begin - Typically around 10-13, girls beginning earlier than boys.
Adolescent growth spurt - Sharp increase in height and weight that precedes sexual maturity.
Spermarche (first ejaculation) - Occurs around age of 13.
primary sex characteristics - enlargement and maturation of testes, penis, scrotum, seminal vesicles and
secondary sex characteristics - broadening of shoulders, narrowing of the hips and waist, growth of pubic, facial,
axiallary (armpit) and chest hair, deepening of voice
Menarche (first menstruation) - Occurs around age 13. White females later than black females.
primary sex characteristics - enlargement and maturation of ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina
secondary sex characteristics - enlargement of breast and areolae, narrowing of waist, broadening of hips, growth
of axiallary hair.
What factors affect onset of puberty
Health and nutritional factors - Secular trend:
Over the last 100 years, better health and nutriotion in western
countries has led to quicker onset of puberty.
Emotional factors - Close relationship with
father related to later onset of puberty in girls. Girls from single
parent homes tend to begin puberty earlier than similar girls from 2 parent homes.
May be related to pheremones (mate attracting chemicals).
Genetic factors - Girls first menstruation
has been shown to begin around same time as their mothers.
Physical exercise - Strenuous exercise can delay the onset of puberty.
Body weight - Larger body weight may lead to earlier onset of puberty.
The implications of early and late sexual maturation
Boys - Early onset of puberty leads to positive
outcome. Strength which leads to dominance in sports
(and probably less bullying) leads to higher self-esteem. Also leads to advantages in dating.
Girls - Early onset of puberty leads to negative
outcomes. Physical changes may be frightening. Girls are less
sociable, less expressive, more introverted. Higher risk for mental health problems (depression,
disruptive behaviors, eating disorders, substance abuse, and attempted suicide.
How did puberty affect your life?
Formal Opermational stage (Piaget) - The final stage of cognitive
development characterized by the ability to
think abstractly. Attributed to a combination of brain maturation and expanding environmental opportunities.
Piaget agreed that culture and schooling also contribute to the development and onset of this stage of cognitive
Hypothetical-deductive reasinging - Ability to develop, consider
and test hypotheses.
(Read Piaget's pendulum problem, p. 426)
Elkind's Immature Characteristics of Adolescent Thought
Elkind, a clinical psychologist, has observed characteristic attitudes and behaviors that teenagers exhibit which
represent the interaction of their new found freedom with their gross inexperience. Sound familiar to you?!
argumentativeness - Children's arguing is motivated by their
desire to try out new reasoning abilities
indecisiveness - Caused by the incredible increase in opportunities made available to adolescence
Finding fault with authority figures - They finally figure out that we're not perfect.
Apparent hypocricy - Children develop ideals and the desire to follow them, but they may not follow ideals perfectly
Self-consciousness - Your teenager may think their thoughts and problems are the most impt things in the world.
Assumption of invulnerability - Children at this age think they are beyond
"A woman is near death from cancer. A druggist has deiscovered
a drug that doctors believe might save her. The
druggist is charging $2,000 for a small dose-ten times what the drug costs him to make. The sick woman's husband,
Heinz, borrows from everyone he knows but can scrape together only $1,000. He begs the druggist to sell him the
drug for $1,000 or let him pay the rest later. Heinz, desperate, breaks into the man's store and steals the drug.
Should Heinz have done that?" (Kohlber, 1969)
Kohlberg's Stage Theory of Moral Reasoning.
Description of moral reasoning and judgment. Kohlberg asked children
for over 30 years to decide what they
would do and why they would do it. Kohlberg was most interested in the "why" of the the problem. What
motivations do people have for the choices that they make. Kohlberg described 3 basic levels of moral reasoning,
each of which was divided into two stages.
Level I - Preconventional morality (ages 4-10)
Choice of behavior based on learning theory principles. Children act to avoid punishment or reap rewards.
1 - orientation towards punishment and obedience
stage 2 - exchange
Level II - Conventional morality (morality of conventional role conformity) (after age 10)
Choice of behavior based on internalized standards of authority. Concerned with being "good".
stage 3 - maintaining mutual relations and the approval of others
stage 4 - social concern and conscience
Level III - Postconventional morality (morality
of autonomous moral principles) (some never make it)
Principles of justice, fairness and the abstract question of right vs. wrong.
Typically reached in late adolescence or early adulthood, if ever.
5 - morality of contract and democratically accepted law
stage 6 - morality of universal ethical principles