Physical Development during Adolescence

 Physical Development during Adolescence

The beginning of adolescence is signaled by a sudden increase in the rate of physical growth. While the growth spurt occurs for both sexes, it starts earlier for girls (at about age ten or eleven) than for boys (about age twelve or thirteen). Before this spurt, boys and girls are similar in height; in early phases, girls are often taller than boys; after it is over, males are several inches taller, on average, than females. This growth spurt is just one aspect of puberty, the period of rapid change during which individuals of both genders reach sexual maturity. During puberty the gonads, or primary sex glands, produce increased levels of sex hormones, and the external sex organs assume their adult form. Girls begin to menstruate and boys start to produce sperms. In addition, both sexes undergo many other shifts relating to sexual maturity. Boys develop facial and chest hair and their voices deepen. Girl’s breast develops, and their hips widen; both sexes develop pubic hair. There is great individual variability in all these respects. Most girls begin to menstruate by the time they are thirteen, but for some this process does not start until considerably later, and for others it may begin as early as age seven or eight. Most boys some the process may start either earlier or later.

Facial features too, often change during puberty. Features associated with childhood, such as large eyes, a high forehead, round cheeks, and a small chin, give way to a more adult appearance. Some members of the both the sexes retain relatively childlike facial features; for females such “baby –faced” appearance can be a plus, because many males find it attractive. Being childlike face does not confer such advantages on males, however. In fact, recent findings suggest that adolescents males who are baby- faced may attempt to compensate for this by behaving in antisocial ways.

Gender differences also exist with respect to the effect of early sexual maturation. Early-maturing boys seem to have a definite edge over those who mature. Two key dimensions seem to underlie differences in parenting style. One has to do with parental demandingness- the extent to which parents are strict or controlling. Parents high on this dimension seek to control their children through status and power, and confront them when they do not meet dimensions is that of parental responsiveness- the extent to which parents are involved in and supportive of their children’s activities. Parents high on this dimension listen actively to their children, respond their requests, show warmth, and focus on their children’s concerns and interests during conversations with them. Together, these two dimensions yield the parenting styles.

Authoritarian parents: They are those parents who are high in demandingness and low in responsiveness. They create harsh rules for their children and don’t give them much say in decisions. Authoritarian parents, in contrast, are high in both demandingness and responsiveness: They establish rules for their children but show great interest in, and responsiveness to, them.

Permissive parents are those who are  high in responsiveness but low in demandingness: They are whole-hearted and responsive, but they set no rules or standards for their children and don’t hold them accountable for their actions. Finally, parents who are neglecting/ rejecting are low in both responsiveness and demandingness- they just don’t seem to care what children do or what they become.

Not surprisingly, these contrasting styles have strong and lasting effects. Growing evidence advises that an authoritative style may yield the most beneficial effects; Adolescents whose parents adopt this approach are generally competent both socially and cognitively. Children whose parents adopt a controlling or permissive style tend to fall in between.

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