Cognitive Development during Adolescence

                                     Cognitive Development during Adolescence

 Adolescents- Cognitive development does not halt in childhood; on the contrary it continues throughout adolescence and results, ultimately, in more mature modes of thought (Klaczynski, 1997).

Theory of mind– their understanding of how they and others think- continues to think and develop. Younger children take what has been described as a realistic approach to knowledge; they believe that knowledge is a property of the real world and that there are definite facts or truths that can be acquired. In contrast, older children and preadolescents become aware of the fact that specialists often disagree; this leads them to progress a relativist approach, which identifies that different people may interpret the same information in contrasting ways.

Preadolescents go a bit farther, opting a defended realism approach, which identifies the difference between facts and opinions. Yet they continue to rely on that there is a set of facts about the world that are completely true, and that differences in opinion stem from differences in available information. Still later, adolescents come to realize that there is no secure basis for knowledge or for making decisions; at this point, they adopt an approach described as dogmatism-skepticism, in which they alternating between blind faith in some authority and doubting everything. Finally, some adolescents, at least, realize that while there are no exact truths, there are better or worse reasons for holding certain views- an approach described as post skeptical rationalism. This, of course, is the kind of thinking democratic societies wish to encourage among their citizens, because only people capable of thinking in this way can make the kind of informed judgments necessary for free elections.        

How cognitive growth happens during the teen years

From ages 12 to 18, children develop in the way they think. They move from concrete thinking to formal logical operations. It’s crucial to note that:

  • Each child moves forward at their own rate in their ability to think in more complex ways.
  • Every child progresses their own image of the world.
  • Some children may be able to use rational operations in schoolwork long before they can use them for personal problems.
  • When emotional disputes come up, they can create problems with a child’s ability to think in complex ways.
  • The ability to consider potentials and facts may affect decision-making. This can happen in either of the way that is positive or negative.

Types of cognitive growth through the years

A child in early adolescence:

  • Uses more multifaceted thinking focused on individual decision-making in school and at home.
  • Begins to show use of formal logical operations in school.
  • Begins to question power and society’s standards.
  • Begins to form and speak their thoughts and views on many topics. You may hear your child talk about which sports or groups he or she prefers, what kinds of personal look is attractive, and what parental rules should be changed.

A child in middle adolescence:

  • Has some knowledge in using more complex thinking processes
  • Expands rational thinking to include more philosophical and futuristic concerns
  • Often questions more extensively
  • Frequently inspects more widely
  • Thinks about and begins to form individual’s code of ethics.
  • Thinks about different possibilities and start to develop own identity.
  • Thinks about and begins to systematically consider realistic future goals.
  • Thinks about and begins to make their own plans.
  • Begins to think long-term
  • Uses organized thinking and begins to influence associations with others

A child in late adolescence:

  • Uses complex thinking to emphasis on less self-centered concepts and personal decision-making
  • Has upgraded thoughts about many global concepts, such as justice, history, politics, and patriotism
  • Often develops perfectionistic views on specific topics or concerns
  • May discuss and form intolerance of opposing views
  • Begins to focus thinking on making futuristic decisions
  • Begins to emphasis thinking on their emerging role in adult society

How you can encourage healthy cognitive growth

To help encourage positive and healthy cognitive growth in your teen, you can:

  • Include him or her in debates about a variety of topics, issues, and current events.
  • Encourage your child to share ideas and thoughts with you.
  • Encourage your teen to think individualistically and develop his/her ideas.
  • Help your child in setting goals.
  • Challenge him or her to think about opportunities for the future.
  • Compliment and applaud your teen for well-thought-out decisions.
  • Help him or her in re-evaluating ailing decisions.

Five main areas of cognitive development that occurs during adolescence         

Attention: Improvements are visible in selective attention (the process by which one focuses on one stimulus while tuning out another), as well as divided attention (the ability to pay attention to two or more stimuli at the same time.)

Memory: Improvements are seen in working and long term memory.

Processing Speed: Adolescents think more easily than children. Processing speed advances gradually between age five and middle adolescence, levels off around age 15, and does not appear to change between late adolescence and adulthood.

Organization: Adolescents are more aware of their own thought processes and can use mnemonic devices and other policies to think and mesmerize information more efficiently.

Metacognition: Adolescence can think about thinking themself. This often involves observing one’s own cognitive activity during the thinking process. Metacognition provides the ability to plan ahead, see the future consequences of an action, and provide alternative explanations of events.

Factors affecting the cognitive development during adolescence:

Nutrition: Major nutritional risk factors for poor child development include IUGR, stunning, iodine deficiency, and iron-deficiency anemia. Low birth weight, a proxy for IUGR, is associated with poor cognitive development. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to cretinism; however even sub-clinical deficiencies are associated with intellectual impairments and neurological abnormalities. Breastfeeding is a protective factor for child development. Breastfeeding could profit child development through enhanced nutrition, reduced infant morbidity, or mother-child relations.

Environment: Diseases like malaria, lead exposure, and HIV are major environmental risk factors for poor child development. In severe or cerebral malaria, individuals can directly harm the brain and central nervous system, causing neurological impairment. HIV-affected children are at increased risk for poor health and development outcomes. Two systematic reviews found delays in all domains of cognitive development in both children infected with HIV and those affected by HIV.

Maternal- Child Integrations: Poor maternal mental health is associated with poor child growth and development. It is thought that depressed females interact differently with their children than mothers without depression, leading to poorer cognitive, social emotional and behavioral outcomes. Environment with insufficient stimulation and few opportunities for learning are associated with poor cognitive development outcomes. Studies report higher cognitive function when children are given stimulating environments, with positive effects that are evident for years after the intervention.

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