ADOLESCENCE.docx - ADOLESCENCE How is adolescence defined...

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ADOLESCENCE How is adolescence defined, and how do physical changes affect developing teens? Many psychologists once believed that childhood sets our traits. Today’s developmental psychologists see development as lifelong. As this life-span perspective emerged, psychologists began to look at how maturation and experience shape us not only in infancy and childhood, but also in adolescence and beyond. Adolescence—the years spent morphing from child to adult—starts with the physical beginnings of sexual maturity and ends with the social achievement of independent adult status. In some cultures, where teens are self-supporting, this means that adolescence hardly exists. G. Stanley Hall (1904), one of the first psychologists to describe adolescence, believed that the tension between biological maturity and social dependence creates a period of “storm and stress.” Indeed, after age 30, many who grow up in independence-fostering Western cultures look back on their teenage years as a time they would not want to relive, a time when their peers’ social approval was imperative, their sense of direction in life was in flux, and their feeling of alienation from their parents was deepest (Arnett, 1999; Macfarlane, 1964). But for many, adolescence is a time of vitality without the cares of
adulthood, a time of rewarding friendships, heightened idealism, and a growing sense of life’s exciting possibilities. PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT Adolescence begins with puberty, the time when we mature sexually. Puberty follows a surge of hormones, which may intensify moods and which trigger a series of bodily changes. EARLY VERSUS LATE MATURING Just as in the earlier life stages, the sequence of physical changes in puberty (for example, breast buds and visible pubic hair before menarche—the first menstrual period) is far more predictable than their timing. Some girls start their growth spurt at 9, some boys as late as age 16. Though such variations have little effect on height at maturity, they may have psychological consequences: It is not only when we mature that counts, but how people react to our physical development. For boys, early maturation has mixed effects. Boys who are stronger and more athletic during their early teen years tend to be more popular, self- assured, and independent, though also more at risk for alcohol use, delinquency, and premature sexual activity (C. S. Conley & Rudolph, 2009;
Copeland et al., 2010; Lynne et al., 2007). For girls, early maturation can be a challenge (Mendle et al., 2007). If a young girl’s body and hormone-fed feelings are out of sync with her emotional maturity and her friends’ physical development and experiences, she may begin associating with older

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