Changes in Adolescence

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Physical Development:

Probably the biggest changes youíll experience are changes in your body. The only other time your body changes this much and as quickly is when youíre an infant. Some people grow very quickly and others grow slowly, but by the time you reach late adolescence most of the slower growers will have caught up. Boys generally start to develop two years later than girls but catch up very quickly between the ages of 14 and 16.

The basic shape of our bodies changes as we grow and develop. Girls become more curvy, narrower at the waist, and broader at the hips and shoulders. Boys become broader at the shoulders and more muscular. Their voices deepen, especially between the ages of 16 and 18, and they grow facial hair. Both girls and boys grow body hair and develop sweat glands. Chemicals called hormones control many of these changes.

Feeling a little awkward during these times of change is normal, especially if you donít quite understand whatís happening. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

In adolescence you begin to look the way youíre going to look as an adult. You canít do much about your height, body build, or bone structure. Thatís why it is important to accept you physical development, however quickly or slowly it takes place, and make the most of who you are.

Intellectual Development

You are also experiencing rapid growth in your intellectual development (the way your brain works). Important changes happen in your brain and in the way you think. Some scientists believe the brain actually grows larger at this time. You develop the ability to remember much more than you could when you were younger. Also the way you view the world changes in small, but important ways.

For example you start changing from concrete to abstract thinking. Concrete thinking is looking at the moon and seeing it is the size of a basketball. As far as the person knows, the moon really is the size of a basketball. Concrete thinking is believing only what he or she can see, hear, or touch.

By age 10 or so, we understand that the moon only appears to be small because it is so far from Earth. This is an example of abstract thinking. You canít really see how the moonís distance from Earth makes it seem smaller, but you can understand it.

As you do more abstract thinking, you can understand more about the world around you. You can become better problem solvers and figure out more difficult math, analyze a short story, or predict the results of a science project.

Examples: any thinking without using concrete objects, such as doing story problems in math, comparing two poems, or explaining why something happens.

Social Development

Refers to changes that will move you toward new relationships with friends, more independence, and more responsibility. With each change, youíll become more mature and less like a child.

Most people your age want to be liked and accepted by other people your age. This need to be accepted can work for you or against you. On the positive side, it can encourage you to do your best so people will like you. On the negative side, it may cause you to do things that are wrong or that you really donít want to do just so you will fit in with the crowd or so people will like you.

Resisting negative influences is one of the greatest challenges you will face in the next few years. Weíll be looking at ways to do this throughout this course.

Social development is developing new relationships and new ways of relating to others; changes in relationships with the opposite sex.

Emotional Development

Because of all the changes adolescence brings, you may sometimes feel worried or uncertain about the future. You may have the feeling that no one understands what youíre going through. You may be moody and angry one minute and then feel happy and excited a short time later. It can be like riding on a roller coaster.

In adolescence your emotions can change rapidly from one moment to the next. Some of this is related to the physical changes in your body. The hormones that cause physical changes also affect your emotions.

During adolescence, managing your emotions may seem difficult. Sometimes you feel as if youíre so happy youíre floating; at other times youíre so miserable you want to hide from the world. And often you donít know where these feelings came from. Youíre not alone. These mood swings happen to most adolescents. But you can learn to manage your emotions and not let them catch you by surprise.