Adolescence (print)

By Gregory Rivera,2014-06-24 07:28
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Adolescence (print)

Children's Health Encyclopedia: Adolescence


    Sometimes referred to as teenage years, youth, or puberty;青春期;, adolescence is the transitional

    period between childhood and maturity, occurring roughly between the ages of 10 and 20. Description

    The word adolescence is Latin in origin, derived from the verb adolescere, which means "to grow

    into adulthood." Adolescence is a time of moving from the immaturity of childhood into the maturity of adulthood. There is no single event or boundary line that denotes the end of childhood or the beginning of adolescence. Rather, experts think of the passage from childhood into and through adolescence as composed of a set of transitions that unfold (呈现) gradually and that

    touch upon many aspects of the individual's behavior, development, and relationships. These transitions are biological, cognitive, social, and emotional.


    The biological transition of adolescence, or puberty, is perhaps the most observable sign that

    adolescence has begun. Technically, puberty refers to the period during which an individual becomes capable of sexual reproduction. More broadly speaking, however, puberty is used as a collective term to refer to all the physical changes that occur in the growing girl or boy as the individual passes from childhood into adulthood.

    The timing of physical maturation varies widely. In the United States, menarche (onset of menstruation) typically occurs around age 12, although some youngsters start puberty when they are only eight or nine, others when they are well into their teens. The duration of puberty also varies greatly: 18 months to six years in girls and two to five years in boys. The physical changes of puberty are triggered by hormones, chemical substances in the body that

    act on specific organs and tissues. In boys a major change incurred during puberty is the increased production of testosterone;睾丸激素;, a male sex hormone, while girls experience increased

    production of the female hormone estrogen;雌激素;. In both sexes, a rise in growth hormone

    produces the adolescent growth spurt;迸发;, the pronounced;显著的; increase in height and

    weight that marks the first half of puberty.

    Perhaps the most dramatic changes of puberty involve sexuality. Internally, through the development of primary sexual characteristics, adolescents become capable of sexual reproduction. Externally, as secondary sexual characteristics appear, girls and boys begin to look like mature women and men.

    Cognitive Transition

    A second element of the passage through adolescence is a cognitive transition. Compared to children, adolescents think in ways that are more advanced, more efficient, and generally more complex. This is evident in five distinct areas of cognition.

    First, during adolescence individuals become better able than children to think about what is possible, instead of limiting their thought to what is real. Whereas children's thinking is oriented to the here and now (i.e., to things and events that they can observe directly), adolescents are able to consider what they observe against a backdrop of what is possiblethey can think hypothetically.

    Second, during the passage into adolescence, individuals become better able to think about abstract ideas. For example, adolescents find it easier than children to comprehend the sorts of

    higher-order, abstract logic inherent in puns, proverbs, metaphors, and analogies. The adolescent's greater facility with abstract thinking also permits the application of advanced reasoning and logical processes to social and ideological matters. This is clearly seen in the adolescent's increased facility and interest in thinking about interpersonal relationships, politics, philosophy,

    religion, and moralitytopics that involve such abstract concepts as friendship, faith, democracy, fairness, and honesty.

    Third, during adolescence individuals begin thinking more often about the process of thinking itself, or metacognition. As a result, adolescents may display increased introspection and

    self-consciousness. Although improvements in metacognitive abilities provide important intellectual advantages, one potentially negative byproduct of these advances is the tendency for adolescents to develop a sort of egocentrism, or intense preoccupation with the self. Acute

    adolescent egocentrism sometimes leads teenagers to believe that others are constantly watching and evaluating them. Psychologists refer to this as the imaginary audience.

    A fourth change in cognition is that thinking tends to become multidimensional, rather than limited to a single issue. Whereas children tend to think about things one aspect at a time, adolescents describe themselves and others in more differentiated and complicated terms and find it easier to look at problems from multiple perspectives. Being able to understand that people's personalities are not one-sided, or that social situations can have different interpretations, depending on one's point of view, permits the adolescent to have far more sophisticated and complicated relationships with other people.

    Finally, adolescents are more likely than children to see things as relative, rather than absolute. They are more likely to question others' assertions and less likely to accept "facts" as absolute truths. This increase in relativism can be particularly exasperating;激怒人的; to parents, who

    may feel that their adolescent children question everything just for the sake of argument. Emotional Transition

    Adolescence is also a period of emotional transition, marked by changes in the way individuals view themselves and in their capacity to function independently. As adolescents mature intellectually and undergo cognitive changes, they come to perceive themselves in more sophisticated and differentiated ways. Compared with children, who tend to describe themselves

    in relatively simple, concrete terms, adolescents are more likely to employ complex, abstract, and psychological self-characterizations. As individuals' self-conceptions become more abstract and as they become more able to see themselves in psychological terms, they become more interested in understanding their own personalities and why they behave the way they do.

    For most adolescents, establishing a sense of autonomy, or independence, is as important a part of the emotional transition out of childhood as is establishing a sense of identity. During adolescence, there is a movement away from the dependency typical of childhood toward the autonomy typical of adulthood. For example, older adolescents do not generally rush to their parents whenever they are upset, worried, or in need of assistance. They do not see their parents as all-knowing or all-powerful, and often have a great deal of emotional energy wrapped up in relationships outside the family. In addition, older adolescents are able to see and interact with their parents as people, not just as their parents. Many parents find, for example, that they can confide ;倾诉;in their

    adolescent children, something that was not possible when their children were younger, or that their adolescent children can easily sympathize;同情; with them when they have had a hard day

    at work.

    Being independent, however, means more than merely feeling independent. It also means being

    course of action. This is an especially important able to make decisions and to select a sensible

    capability in contemporary society, where many adolescents are forced to become independent decision makers at an early age. In general, researchers find that decision-making abilities improve over the course of the adolescent years, with gains continuing well into the later years of high school.

    Many parents wonder about the susceptibility of adolescents to peer pressure. In general, studies

    that contrast parent and peer influences indicate that in some situations, peers' opinions are more influential, while in others, parents' are more influential. Specifically, adolescents are more likely to conform to their peers' opinions when it comes to short-term, day-to-day, and social mattersstyles of dress, tastes in music, and choices among leisure activities. This is particularly true during junior high school and the early years of high school. When it comes to long-term questions concerning educational or occupational plans, however, or values, religious beliefs, and ethical issues, teenagers are influenced in a major way by their parents.

    Susceptibility to the influence of parents and peers changes during adolescence. In general, during childhood, boys and girls are highly oriented toward their parents and less so toward their peers; peer pressure during the early elementary school years is not especially strong. As they approach adolescence, however, children become somewhat less oriented toward their parents and more oriented toward their peers, and peer pressure begins to escalate. During early adolescence,

    conformity to parents continues to decline and conformity to peers and peer pressure continues to rise. It is not until middle adolescence that genuine behavioral independence emerges, when conformity to parents as well as peers declines.

    Social Transition

    Accompanying the biological, cognitive, and emotional transitions of adolescence are important changes in the adolescent's social relationships. Developmentalists have spent considerable time charting the changes that take place with friends and with family members as the individual moves through the adolescent years.

    One of the most noteworthy aspects of the social transition into adolescence is the increase in the amount of time individuals spend with their peers. Although relations with age-mates exist well before adolescence, during the teenage years they change in significance and structure. For example, there is a sharp increase during adolescence in the sheer amount of time individuals spend with their peers and in the relative time they spend in the company of peers versus adults. In the United States, well over half of the typical adolescent's waking hours are spent with peers, as opposed to only 15 percent with adults, including parents. Second, during adolescence, peer groups function much more often without adult supervision than they do during childhood, and more often involve friends of the opposite sex.

    Finally, whereas children's peer relationships are limited mainly to pairs of friends and relatively

    three or four children at a time, for exampleadolescence marks the emergence of small groups

    larger groups of peers, or crowds. Crowds are large collectives of similarly stereotyped individuals

    who may or may not spend much time together. In contemporary American high schools, typical crowds are "jocks,";运动员; "brains," "nerds,"(讨厌的人) "populars," "druggies," and so on. In

    contrast to cliques;小圈子;, crowds are not settings for adolescents' intimate interactions or friendships, but instead serve to locate the adolescent (to himself and to others) within the social structure of the school. As well, the crowds themselves tend to form a sort of social hierarchy or map of the school, and different crowds are seen as having different degrees of status or importance.

    The importance of peers during early adolescence coincides with changes in individuals' needs for intimacy. As children begin to share secrets with their friends, loyalty and commitment develop. During adolescence, the search for intimacy intensifies, and self-disclosure between best friends becomes an important pastime. Teenagers, especially girls, spend a good deal of time discussing their innermost;秘密的; thoughts and feelings, trying to understand one another. The discovery that they tend to think and feel the same as someone else becomes another important basis of friendship.

    One of the most important social transitions that takes place in adolescence concerns the emergence of sexual and romantic relationships. In contemporary society, most young people begin dating sometime during early adolescence. Dating during adolescence can mean a variety of different things, from group activities that bring males and females together (without much actual contact between the sexes); to group dates, in which a group of boys and girls go out jointly (and spend part of the time as couples and part of the time in large groups); to casual dating as couples; and to serious involvement with a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. More adolescents have experience in mixed-sex group activities like parties or dances than dating, and more have experience in dating than in having a serious boyfriend or girlfriend.

    Common Problems

    Generally speaking, most young people are able to negotiate the biological, cognitive, emotional, and social transitions of adolescence successfully. Some adolescents, however, are at risk of developing certain problems, such as:

    ; eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or obesity

    ; drug or alcohol use

    ; depression or suicidal ideation

    ; violent behavior

    ; anxiety, stress, or sleep disorders

    ; unsafe sexual activities

    Parental Concerns

    Many parents dread the onset of adolescence, fearing that their child will become hostile and rebellious and begin to reject his or family. Although it is incorrect to characterize adolescence as a time when the family ceases to be important, or as a time of inherent and inevitable family conflict, adolescence is a period of significant change and reorganization in family relationships. Family relationships change most around the time of puberty, with increasing conflict and decreasing closeness occurring in many parent-adolescent relationships. Changes in the ways adolescents view family rules and regulations may contribute to increased disagreement between them and their parents. Family conflict during this stage is more likely to take the form of bickering over day-to-day issues than outright fighting. Similarly, the diminished closeness is more likely to be manifested in increased privacy on the part of the adolescent and diminished physical affection between teenagers and parents, rather than any serious loss of love or respect between parents and children. Research suggests that this distancing is temporary, and that family relationships may become less conflicted and more intimate during late adolescence.

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