University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Physical Changes in Adolescence
Children must pass through several stages, or take specific steps, on their road to becoming adults. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services the term adolescence is commonly used to describe the transition stage between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence is also equated to both the terms “teenage years” and “puberty.” They also state that puberty refers to the “hormonal changes that occur in early youth; and the period of adolescence can extend well beyond the teenage years. In fact, there is no one scientific definition of adolescence or set age boundary.” During the adolescence stage, parents will notice the greatest amount of changes that will occur in their child’s body. The adolescent himself/herself will also take note of these changes. Some of these teenagers may experience theses signs of maturity sooner or later than others.
Adolescence is the time for growth spurts and puberty. The adolescents may grow several inches in height. This is true for both boys and girls at the age of 13 and goes as far as 18 yrs old. When it comes to the puberty change then these become more visible since there are several signs. The females start with these changes as early as 8 years old and in males at 9.5 yrs. Sexual and other physical maturation that occurs during puberty is a result of hormonal changes. As a child nears puberty, the pituitary gland increases the secretion of a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone then causes additional effects. In girls, FSH activates the ovaries to start producing estrogen. In boys, FSH causes sperm to develop. In boys it is more difficult to know exactly when puberty is coming.
There are changes that occur, but they occur gradually and over a period of time, rather than as a single event. Some of these changes might be the enlargement of the testicles, appearance of pubic hair their voice deepens and at the age of 14 some of them may have even ‘wet dreams’. The girls also happen to experience some changes as well. The first one to be noticed is the developmental of their breast, menstruation period and changes in their body shape start to show. No two teenage bodies are the same so some may experience these physical changes before others.
Physical development is a critical part of adolescence. How adolescents perceive their physical self, that is, what they think they look like and how they feel about it, directly relates to their overall sense of self-worth. Many of these feelings are influenced by their culture, the media, their peers, and their families. They are also influenced by their own initial sense of self-esteem as they enter this rapidly changing phase of physical development. We know that the changes are rapid and often drastic, resulting in rapid growth and physical maturity. Now that we have a sense of some of the important physical changes that occur during adolescence, we can use this information to help us better understand teens. It will also help us recognize their sensitive thoughts and feelings. We can use this information to help us direct them toward positive behavior and outcomes.
By the beginning of late adolescence, many of these changes are nearing completion. This allows teens to gain more acceptance and ownership of their body image. By reminding ourselves of these changes, we can become more sensitive to teens’ growth experiences and treat them with the respect, compassion, and consideration that will help them move smoothly through these physical transitions. Parents can help their children by providing support and by being understanding and tactful during discussions about these changes. Preparing one’s children for the initial onset of puberty (menarche for girls and spermarche for boys) will let them know what to expect. It will also minimize any stress and shame that they may feel without adequate preparation.
The approach to this preparation should be gentle, but informative. It may be given in a manner that is very positive, explaining that these events are “normal” and everyone experiences them once in their life. Once the child understands that this is part of the path to adolescence and a rite of passage, they will view these changes with minimal stress and maximum acceptance.
What does my adolescent understand?
The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, adolescents increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at a different rate and may have a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities that may be evident in your adolescent: develops the ability to think abstractly is concerned with philosophy, politics, and social issues thinks long-term sets goals compares one’s self to one’s peers.
As your adolescent begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may occur. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent during these years: wants independence from parents
peer influence and acceptance becomes very important
male-female relationships become important
may be in love
has long-term commitment in relationship
How to assist your adolescent in developing socially:
Consider the following as ways to foster your adolescent’s social abilities: Encourage your adolescent to take on new challenges.
Talk with your adolescent about not losing sight of one’s self in group relations. Encourage your adolescent to talk to a trusted adult about problems or concerns, even if it is not you he/she chooses to talk with. Discuss ways to manage and handle stress.
Provide consistent, loving discipline with limits, restrictions, and rewards. Find ways to spend time together.
Topic Home Page | Return to Full List of Topics
The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of this Web page and the information contained on this page. Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, its officers, directors, employees, agents, and information providers shall not be liable for any damages you may suffer or cause through your use of this page even if advised of the possibility of such damages.