Adolescent Physical Development



Adolescent puberty period is a very confusing moment especially when it happens prematurely. Early and late puberty takes place for different reasons some of which are cultural as well as health related. In the past 100 years, the age at which puberty sets in has greatly reduced presenting researchers and educators with the diverse problem. The advance in technology apart from being very beneficial has also brought about unique challenges to an adolescent segment of the population.

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Introduction and Trends in Adolescent Puberty over the Past 100 Years

Puberty can be described as a physical preparation for adulthood. Together with numerous bodily changes, puberty can encourage curiosity, endorse interest in sexual activities, increase antagonism in adolescents and might accelerate risk-taking behaviors as individuals contest for social standing and endeavor to fit perceived peer norms. Over the past 100 years, the age that puberty starts has substantially gone down across most developed countries. The trend has been obvious for both sexes. However, the girls have visible and clearer biological markers. Girls have progressively continued to mature earlier at an alarming rate in the United States and other developed countries (Alikasifoglu at el., 2015).

Today, girls as young as 7 or 8 years old are already at the initial stages of puberty such as breast development and hair growth. The menarche does do the show until at the age of about 12 years of age. Boys experience the arrival of puberty that includes the development of facial hair and growth spurts at progressively younger ages, but the trend to eventual full-blown puberty is not as pronounced or rapid as in the case of girls.

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Reason for this Trend

A lot of factors have been fronted as possible explanations of this phenomenon, but the most critical have been a mixture of a change in social structures and public health successes. Therefore, achievements such as enhanced health status by reducing childhood infections and childhood nutrition have been key factors in hastening the arrival of puberty. The social set up has also changed significantly in the last 100 years. Stress has been identified as a puberty hastener. Familial disruptions that contribute to stress children when growing up children has gone up that include absentee father, divorce levels and increased incidences of single- parents. Obesity has also been linked with early adolescent puberty. As children, lifestyle and diet change more children are becoming obese further affecting the ages when puberty sets in.

Effects of Early Advent of Puberty

Maturing early present a lot of challenges to children, because young children are expected to behave like others who are considerably older. Other adults and kids can make a mistaken assumption about their capabilities. The child’s level of social, emotional and cognitive development, though consistent with their age, physically, they appear older. Girls are particularly at a disadvantage culturally, because being sexually established brings challenges for young women. Research shows that girls are particularly more affected by early puberty than boys (Roberts, 2015). For boys, early puberty has been associated with externalizing signs such as tobacco use and internalizing signs like anxiety, as opposed to full blown disorders. However, for adolescent girls, premature puberty is linked to substance use, more depressive, disruptive behavior and eating disorders. Boys who experience early puberty often do well in sports due to physical maturity, while girls are more popular with boys leading to early dating and an active social life.

Effects of Late Advent of Puberty

Girls who mature late might appreciate comparatively safe teenage years since they will have more time to get emotionally prepared for puberty and might not feel pressured to date early and to have sex. Such girls get more time to concentrate on their education since they go through few distractions. Boys, on the other hand, grow with better coping techniques and greater oddity since they developed late. Again, such boys will concentrate more on school and score better grades as opposed to dating. On the negative side, girls who mature late might get anxious and worry about when their bodies will develop. Other teens their age who are fully developed might also tease them.  Boys might find it difficult to compete in sports, take on leadership activities or date due to their late physical development.

How Changes in Physical Development Affect Adolescent Behavior in the Classroom

Puberty usher in a period of physiological change activated by the release of hormones and starts at adolescent. Intense development characterizes the period with hormones indicating the growth of primary sex features such as the genitalia and secondary sex features like breast development for girls and facial hair in boys.  The improved adrenal hormone generation affects hair production, skin changes, and skeletal growth.  Due to the high visibility of these changes and the contrasting rates of maturity, a lot of adolescents may feel uncomfortable about their dissimilarity in their physical development.

Children who mature early are usually not psychologically prepared for the changes that take place in their bodies, and the situation is not made any better when they are teased by their peers in class. For girls who experience their menstrual periods in class might become upset and anxious depending on the level of frankness, they have experienced among family and friends. Menstrual pain has been singled out as the key cause of absenteeism in adolescent girls. Boys who mature early might turn to be bullying in class due to their better and stronger bodies. Boys and girls who mature late do not experience as much distress as those maturing early, since they are usually at an age when they can control their emotions and can handle the teasing in class.

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Cognitive and Social Development

Cognitive development denotes the growth of a child’s capability to reason and think. Throughout the adolescent years, peers relationship become even more vital to social and cognitive development. Adolescents spend more time with their peers than with family. Adolescent start to show more independent control over their actions, decisions and emotions, gradually they start to disengage from the control of their parents (Berk, & Meyers, 2015). In the classroom, the student becomes increasingly aware of the perspective of teachers, classmates, and various societal impacts. Early bloomers might find it difficult to socialize with their classmates and might find them childlike. Late bloomers will also have a problem socializing with teenagers their age for the same reason.

Overcoming Challenges Posted by Digital Culture

The challenge for the administrator is to develop an environment where technology is applied to make or enable more effective teaching and effective learning practices. The adolescent should be put in a group or in pairs to minimize abuse of the vast negative information on the digital platform. Young children should be closely monitored and guided on how to effectively collaborate responsibly and effectively to enhance the learning experience. Technology should be used as a short, powerful intervention to improve learning.  Although digital learning has huge benefits to students when used properly, it can also be abused by adolescents.  For the best results, digital learning ought to be used to supplement the usual teaching but not to replace it.

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  1. Alikasifoglu, A., Vuralli, D., Gonc, E. N., Ozon, A., & Kandemir, N. (2015). Changing etiological trends in male precocious puberty: evaluation of 100 cases with central precocious puberty over the last decade. Hormone research in pediatrics, 83(5), 340-344.
  2. Berk, L. E., & Meyers, A. B. (2015). Infants, children, and adolescents. Pearson.
  3. Roberts, C. (2015). Puberty in crisis: the sociology of early sexual development. Cambridge University Press.
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