General Information About Adolescence
Adolescence is the period of body growth and metal development that takes place between the onset of puberty and the attainment of physical and emotional maturity. Although girls undergo greater physical change during puberty than do boys, they tend to reach puberty earlier and take less time to reach maturity. Adolescence in young women begins around age 11 and continues through about age 16. In young men, the corresponding period begins about age 13 and continues through about age 18. After about age 14, males are, on the average, heavier and taller than females.
Question: What physical changes take place during adolescence?
In boys, the genitals increase in size; pubic hair appears, then armpit and facial hair; the voice becomes deeper. In girls, the breasts develop; armpit and pubic hair appears; and menstruation begins.
Question: What emotional and behavioral changes accompany these physical changes?
Hormonal changes awaken sexual feelings, and most late-adolescents have some sexual experience. Dating normally begins during mid-adolescence.
Hormonal changes also account for the moodiness for which adolescents are well known. Adolescents who have difficulty adjusting to physical changes may become depressed or apathetic. Alternately, there are times when intense physical energy leads adolescents to unbounded enthusiasm for particular activities or causes.
There may also be a reaction against authority. The individual young person at this time often experiences the desire to express his or her own personality, form a definite character, and experience as many new sensations as possible. Most adolescents welcome the opportunity to take on more responsibility and become more independent. However, they may have difficulty at first in handling the challenge. They may, thus, at one time act independently and at other times want to be more dependent. These natural changes in attitude cause stress for the adolescent. This stress should be recognized by the adolescent and by his or her parents.
Some of the experimentation in various activities, such as smoking and drinking alcohol that is common among many adolescents, also may represent a form of determined independence. But the desire for new experiences may, in some cases, lead to problems (drug-taking, for example).
Question: How can parents prepare their child for adolescence?
Children should be told frankly and sensibly about the upcoming changes in their body. Information about sex should be provided in a way tat is easily understood and that leaves no questions unanswered. This information is best supplied by a parent or someone with whom the child has an emotionally stable relationship. In many schools, programs are available tat highlight the dangers of casual sex, smoking, and alcohol and drug addiction.
Question: How can parents help an adolescent child?
Adolescents come under considerable pressure from the dictates of their own group, which encourages them to conform. The bodily processes leading to physical maturity may also give rise to discomfort or embarrassment. One of the best ways that parents and other people can help is to provide understanding, sympathy, advice, and helpful discussion on all the physiological and psychological problems that accompany this time. Late-maturing adolescents, especially boys, tend to have a poorer opinion of themselves than do those who mature early or at an average rate.