December 15, 2014
The adolescent years are a time of storms and strains, it is a period when a person is hovering between childhood and adulthood. Puberty is a period of rapid physical growth and hormonal changes, which occurs during the years of adolescence. The hormonal changes of puberty involve the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development in females and beard growth in males. Adolescence in our society is a time of social and psychological confusion. To be an adolescent is to be part child and part adult. Some adult responsibility is expected, but adult privileges, like driving a car, deciding when and where to go out, and buying alcoholic beverages are restricted or denied. In social terms, adolescence puts people in a sort of limbo because they don’t have a clear place in the world of work. That world, above all others, defines adulthood in our society.
When it comes to physical development both boys and girls experience a growth spurt during the adolescent years. Girls usually begin their growth spurt earlier than boys do. A major hormonal shift called the menarche is associated with the release of growth hormones in girls as young as 10 years old. Therefore, girls begin their surge in growth at about age 10 or 11. Boys tend to begin their growth changes a couple of years later, around age 10 or 14. In both cases, the amount of growth is dramatic. A skinny boy of 13 may go from about 5 feet 2 inches and 95 pounds to 5 feet 10 inches and 150 pounds in the space of a year or so. Girls don’t grow as tall or as large as boys do, but because they begin their spurt earlier, they may often be taller than boys their age for a time. By middle adolescence, most girls have reached the height and weight they’ll typically retain into early adulthood. Boys however may continue to grow for a longer period. While some boys have reached their early adult height and weight by middle adolescence, it’s not unusual for others to continue their growth through late adolescence.
Sexual development is part of the physical development in adolescence for males and females. “Modern lifestyle and medicine have influenced nutritional and infectious constraints on puberty, resulting in the secular trend in pubertal development over the past 150 years” (Hochber, Z., & Belsky, J. 2013). In males, specific changes in males during puberty include a thickening of the vocal chords that brings on a characteristic masculine voice. A boyish soprano changes to some typical range between tenor and bass. Changes in body hair are mostly in hair texture. Men and women have much the same range of hairs and hair follicles, but in men, hair on the face, chest, legs and underarms tend to be thicker and far more evident. Boys’ shoulders, torsos, and arm muscles become larger than those of females, and their hearts and lungs gain sixe and capacity. In females the production of estrogen in girls causes the growth of breasts and of supportive tissue in the hops and buttocks. Androgen, a dominant hormone in males, is also produced in a female’s adrenal glands. The effect of androgen of females is the growth of pubic and underarm hair. Meanwhile, both of these hormones work to bring about the maturity of the female reproductive system.
Boys who mature earlier experience both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that they’re more likely to be sought out as opinion leaders in peer groups. They also have an advantage in adolescent courtship games. On the other hand, teachers and coaches often expect more from them than they’re ready to deal with. The fact is, getting a beard and broad shoulders early doesn’t mean that one’s social and emotional maturity is greater than young men who develop later. In fact, research indicates that boys who mature gradually are more likely to adapt to adult life successfully than early boomers.