Adolescence: Biosocial Development

Puberty Begins

To some extent hormonal changes cause emotional change, in that

    * rapidly increasing hormone levels, especially testosterone, cause more rapid arousal of emotions.
    * Hormones affect the quick shifts in the extremes of emotions.
    * For boys, hormonal increases lead to more thoughts about sex, etc.
    * For many girls, the menstrual cycle produces mood changes. 

The age of puberty is highly variable, factors that affect its onset are

    * stress - causes early puberty.
    * genes - mother daughter correlation.
    * body type - stocky individuals earlier.

The Transformations of Puberty
                                                             Wider, Taller, Then Stronger

   "Spurt" is the word used to describe a short burst of activity, something that happens in a hurry. And 
a growth spurt is just that: The body is growing, and it's happening really fast!

    In adolescence growth proceeds from the extremities to the core (outside in). Just the opposite of the 
proximal-distal growth of the prenatal & infant periods. 

    Growth during puberty is the last time the body will grow taller. After this growth spurt, adult height 
is reached.

    Guys' shoulders will grow wider, and their bodies will become more muscular. Their breasts may grow 
a bit, but this goes away for most guys by the end of puberty. Their voices will become deeper. They will 
notice other changes, too, like the lengthening and widening of the penis and the enlargement of the 
testes. All of these changes mean that their bodies are developing as expected during puberty.

    Girls' bodies usually become curvier. They gain weight on their hips, and their breasts develop, starting 
with just a little swelling under the nipple. Sometimes one breast might develop more quickly than the other, 
but most of the time they soon even out. With all this growing and developing going on, girls will notice an 
increase in body fat and occasional soreness under the nipples as the breasts start to enlarge - and that's 
normal. Gaining some weight is part of developing into a woman, and it's unhealthy for girls to go on a diet 
to try to stop this normal weight gain.

Proper Proportions - concerns:
       Torso takes final form last.
               Body halves do not mature at the same rate.
                       Re: "on time" development, note: everyone catches up.

Organ Growth

    Lungs 3x weight - Heart 2x size ( a + for physical endurance )

    Lymphoid system (tonsils & adenoids) decrease in size ( a + ).

    Puberty hormones affect glands in the skin, and the glands make chemicals that smell bad. These 
chemicals put the scent in adolescent!

    Another thing that comes with puberty is acne, or pimples. It's triggered by hormones that are present 
during puberty. Pimples usually start around the beginning of puberty and can stick around during the 
teen years.


    Adolescents need extra nutrients to support the adolescent growth spurt.
   In addition to other nutrients, adequate amounts of iron and calcium are particularly important as the 
adolescent body undergoes this intensive growth period.
   Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies - adolescents are at special risk, since 
up to 13% of teenage boys and girls were found to have low iron stores. Rapid growth, coupled with a fast 
lifestyle and poor dietary choices, can all result in iron-deficiency or anemia.
   Teenage girls need to pay special attention to iron as their iron stores are depleted each month following 
menstruation. Test for low blood hemoglobin if a teenage girl seems apathetic and lazy.

    Fast-growing, active teens may have tremendous energy needs. Even though their regular meals can 
be substantial, they still may need snacks to supply energy between meals and to meet their daily nutrient 
needs. Five a Day!

Sexual Characteristics

Reproductive Possibilities - Primary Characteristics

    * Males
          - Rapid growth of penis and scrotum at 12 or 13
          - Comparisons can be embarrassing, but are meaningless in terms of function
          - First ejaculation of semen around age 12 - spermarche
          - Nocturnal emissions

    * Females
          - Menarche is preceded by enlargement of the breasts, appearance of pubic hair, & broadening 
of the hips and shoulders.

          - Next, the uterus, vagina, labia, and clitoris develop to mature proportions

Sexual Appearance - Secondary Characteristics

    Breast development. First “buds” develop, then the larger breast. Nipples increase in size and darkness. 
To a much lesser degree, this happens in some males.

    * Body hair. Pubic hair progresses from fuzz to darker hair; underarm hair begins.

    * Voice. Males’ larynxes enlarge, creating larger resonance chambers.

Health & Hazards

Sexual Abuse: Special Vulnerability in Adolescence

    -  Childhood sexual abuse is broadly defined as any erotic activity that arouses and excites an adult 
and excites, shames, or confuses a young person - whether or not the victim protests and whether or not 
genital contact is involved. Under this definition sexual abuse is very common.
    -  Childhood sexual abuse is narrowly defined as "forced to touch an adult or older child or forcibly 
touched by an older adult or older child in a sexual way". Under this definition; 30% of females & 9% of 
boys (Gallup poll 1995) had been abused.

Alcohol, Tobacco, & other Drugs

Ψ Drug abuse - alcohol

    * Alcohol advertising is especially directed toward the 12-19 age group
    * There are 8 million alcohol addicts in the U. S.
    * A few studies show a genetic susceptibility to alcohol

Ψ Tobacco

    * Recent studies and prosecution have shown that the tobacco companies were especially trying to 
entice the young.
    * Multiple studies have shown tobacco to be associated with cancer and heart disease

Ψ  Marijuana 
•  Repeated use of this drug produces a "mellowness" characterized by a general lack of motivation & 
indifference to the future.

Ψ Other types of drug abuse

The trend since 1978 has been for fewer young people to experiment with drugs, but still over ten 
percent of them do .


    * accident, injury
    * unintended provocation of peace officer or citizen
    * motor vehicle accident
    * psychological dependence
    * physical dependence
    * resorting to theft to feed one’s habit
    * loss of career opportunities

Gateway drugs

    * Tobacco
     * Alcohol
      * Marijuana

FYI:  The gateway drug theory proposes that the habitual use of less deleterious drugs may lead to a a future 
risk of using more dangerous hard drugs & crime. Some research suggests that some serious drug abusers have 
used other drugs before using cannabis or alcohol. Individual drug-abuse histories show that "hard drug" users do 
progress from one drug to another, but the research is not clear enough to confirm the gateway theory. 

Curbing Adolescent Drug Use

As least partly effective measures follow.

    * Education
    * Harsher punishments for venders who sell tobacco & alcohol to minors
    * Higher prices for tobacco & alcohol
    * Drunk driving laws that are strictly enforced
    * Better parent - child communication about drugs
    * Generational forgetting does not help.

Key Questions:

1. What is the usual sequence of biological changes during puberty?
2. What factors trigger the onset of puberty?
3. How does the age at which puberty begins affect the adolescent, socially and emotionally?
4. What are the main changes that characterize the growth spurt?
5. How do the nutritional needs of adolescents differ from those of younger and older individuals?
6. How are the sexual maturation of males and females similar and how are they different?
7. How is an adolescent's body image related to the development of self-esteem?
8. What are the potential consequences of sexual abuse in adolescence?
9. What are the reasons underlying increased adolescent use of some drugs and experimentation a an earlier age?
10. How might drug use be harmful to adolescents, even if the drugs are legal? 
11. In your experience how did the attitudes of your family, friends, and others affect your experience of puberty?

                                                          Robert C. Gates