Puberty – The Physical Changes Moving into Adulthood

     In their second decade of life, children experience puberty. Puberty is the stage where the child transforms from physical immaturity into becoming capable of reproduction. One of the first visible signs of puberty is a growth spurt – both in the child’s size and shape. Girls experience a growth in their breasts and a hip expansion. Boys often loose fat and become more angular and muscular, making them stronger as well. Sex organs change and mature and girls experience menarche, or their first menstruation.

Psychological Responses to Puberty:

     How a child responds to their own changing body and mind is strongly influenced by the attitudes and beliefs of others around them. Often, when some time and effort is spent in preparation for these changes, the child will react more positively to this time period.

     For girls, the weight gain that is part of puberty can become a problem for them. On average, girls gain 24 pounds of body fat during puberty, and this can deviate from the cultural and media idea that “thin is beautiful.” Distress can be felt by teenage girls who find that the thin media body type is unattainable after puberty has set in, and this distress can transfer into feelings of dissatisfaction with their new womanly bodies.

     Aside from media influences, influences from peers, families and schools effect a teen’s reaction towards their changing bodies.

Early/Late Maturation:

Early Maturation – Positive consequences: For girls, early maturation can mean more popularity due to increased sexual attractiveness. As well, boys who mature physically earlier, are often regarded as more mature in general.

* Negative consequences: There are also negative consequences that have been observed to be due to early development. Girls often react in an embarrassed way, and slouch in order to hide their bodies. They report being more dissatisfied with their bodies and often weigh more and are shorter when they finish puberty. As well, early development can pose more risks as girls who develop earlier are more likely to become involved in sexual relationships earlier. As well, early development has been associated with a decline in academics, problem behaviours, involvement in drugs and alcohol, and shop lifting.

     For boys who physically mature earlier, there also exist a number of negative
consequences. They tend to be more sombre and anxious. They are less exploratory, curious and intellectual. This has been seen to be due to the early end in childhood, when the child may be less prepared to enter adulthood. Often these teens have lower self-control, less emotional stability and are more likely to smoke, drink, do drugs and get into trouble with the law.

Late Maturation – At the time when all their peers are developing, the late maturing child may feel it is a negative thing at the time. However, these children report being more satisfied later on in their lives and later become more popular.

Related Links

Adolescent Psychology
Social Life
Parental Relationships
Child Psychology
Developmental Psychology
Problems of Teens & Children