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Adolescent Growth and Development. Angela Huebner, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Human Development Virginia Tech [email protected] 703.538-8491 February 7, 2008. Period of Adolescence. Rapid growth Interaction of physical, psychological, and environmental factors

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adolescent growth and development

Adolescent Growth and Development

Angela Huebner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Human Development

Virginia Tech

[email protected]


February 7, 2008

period of adolescence
Period of Adolescence
  • Rapid growth
  • Interaction of physical, psychological, and environmental factors
  • Off timing of systems (Dahl, 2004)
    • Puberty
    • Physical growth
    • Emotion and behavior regulation
  • Importance of understanding interaction of all the systems;
  • Transitions all occur sequentially but not necessarily at the same time
Source: Cooperative Extension System

Extension "CARES" for America's Children and Youth Initiative

March, 2001

what s the big deal
What’s the Big Deal?
  • Adolescent morbidity
    • Health Paradox (Dahl, 2004):
      • Developmental period of strength and resilience both physically and cognitively
      • Yet, morbidity & mortality rates increase 200%

I. Physical Development

II. Cognitive Development

III. Psycho-Social Development

i physical development
I. Physical Development
  • Height & Weight Changes
  • Secondary Sex Characteristics
  • Continued Brain Development
rapid gains in height weight
Rapid Gains in Height & Weight
  • 4.1 to 3.5 inches per year
  • Girls mature about 2 years earlier than boys
  • Weight gain = muscles for boys; fat for girls
secondary sex characteristics
Secondary Sex Characteristics:
  • Pubic hair
  • Menarche or penis growth
  • Voice changes for boys
  • Underarm hair
  • Facial hair growth for boys
  • Increased production of oil, sweat glands, acne
continued brain development
Continued Brain Development
  • Not completely developed until late adolescence
  • Emotional, physical and mental abilities incomplete
  • May explain why some seem inconsistent in controlling emotions, impulses, and judgements
understanding the adolescent brain
Understanding the Adolescent Brain
  • Advances in brain imaging allow for better understanding of what occurs
  • Evidence for frontal lobe delays Inability to delay gratification; impulse control
  • Suggestion that puberty represents a period of synaptic reorganization and as a consequence the brain might be more sensitive to experiential input at this period of time in the realm of executive function and social cognition
  • Prefrontal cortex of interest
  • (Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006)
brain developmental changes
Brain: Developmental Changes
  • Synaptogenesis: proliferation of synapses
  • Myelinazation: insulation around synapses
  • Synaptic pruning: frequently used connections are strengthened, infrequently used connections are eliminated

(Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006)

how do these change affect teens
How do these change affect teens?
  • Usually studied as decision making (Steinberg, 2004)
    • In lab: similarities in adolescent & adult decision making processes
  • Adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to risk taking
    • Novelty & sensation seeking increase dramatically at puberty
    • Development of self-regulation lags behind
  • Risk taking as group behavior (Steinberg, 2004)
how do these changes affect teens
How Do These Changes Affect Teens?
  • Frequently sleep longer - 9 1/2 hours
  • May be more clumsy because of growth spurts-body parts grow at different rates
  • Girls may become sensitive about weight - 60% trying to lose weight
  • 1-3% have eating disorder
how do these changes affect teens1
How Do These Changes Affect Teens?
  • Concern if not physically developing at same rate as peers - need to “fit” in (early vs. late maturation)
  • Feel awkward about showing affection to opposite sex parent
  • Ask more direct questions about sex - trying to figure out values around sex
what can adults do
What Can Adults Do?
  • Expect inconsistency in responsibility taking and in decision making
  • Provide opportunities for “safe” risk taking
  • Avoid criticizing/comparing to others
  • Encourage enough sleep
  • Encourage/model healthy eating
  • Encourage/model activity
  • Provide honest answers about sex
ii cognitive development
II. Cognitive Development
  • Advanced Reasoning Skills
  • Abstract Thinking Skills
  • Meta-Cognition
beginning to gain advanced reasoning skills
Beginning to Gain Advanced Reasoning Skills
  • Options
  • Possibilities
  • Logical
  • Hypothetically
  • What if?
think abstractly
Think Abstractly
  • Can take others’ perspective
  • Can think about non-concrete things like faith, trust, beliefs, and spirituality
ability to think about thinking
Ability to Think About Thinking
  • Meta-cognition
  • Think about how they feel and what they are thinking
  • Think about how they think they are perceived by others
  • Can develop strategies for improving their learning
how do these changes affect teens2
How Do These Changes Affect Teens?
  • Heightened self-consciousness
  • Believes no one else has experienced feelings/emotions
  • Tend to become cause-oriented
  • Tend to exhibit a “justice orientation”
  • “It can’t happen to me” syndrome
what can adults do1
Don’t take it personally when teens discount experience

Discuss their behavior rules/consequences

Provide opportunities for community service

Ask teens their view and share own

What Can Adults Do?
iii psycho social development
III. Psycho-Social Development
  • Establishing identity
  • Establishing autonomy
  • Establishing intimacy
  • Become comfortable with one’s sexuality
  • Achievement
establishing identity
Establishing Identity
  • Erikson (1959): identity vs. identity diffusion
  • Integrates opinions of other into own likes/dislikes—needs interactions with diverse others for this to occur
  • Outcome is clear sense of values, beliefs, occupational goals, and relationship expectations
  • Secure identities-knows where they fit
identity exploration process







Identity Exploration Process:







Marcia (1966)

establishing autonomy
Establishing Autonomy
  • Becoming independent and self-governing within relationships
  • Make and follow through with decisions
  • Live with own set of principles of right/wrong
  • Less emotionally dependent on parents
establishing intimacy
Establishing Intimacy
  • Learns intimacy and sex not same thing
  • Learned within context of same-sex friendships; then in romantic relationships
  • Develops close, open, honest, caring, and trusting relationships
  • Learn to begin, maintain, and terminate relationships; practice social skills, and become intimate from friends
becoming comfortable with one s sexuality
Becoming Comfortable with One’s Sexuality
  • How educated/exposed to sexuality largely determines if healthy sexual identity develops
  • More than half high school students are sexually active
  • Mixed messages contribute to teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
predictors of sexual activity
Predictors of Sexual Activity
  • Having a steady boy/girlfriend
  • Using alcohol regularly
  • Having parents with permissive values about sex
  • Being worried about one’s future occupational success
  • Implication: focus on more than one risk factor
  • Society fosters and values attitudes of competition and success
  • Can see relationship between abilities, plans, aspirations
  • Need to determine achievement preferences, what good at, and areas willing to strive for success
how do these changes affect teens3
How Do These Changes Affect Teens?
  • More time with friends
  • May keep a journal
  • More questions about sexuality
  • Begin to lock bedroom door
  • Involved in multiple hobbies/clubs
  • More argumentative
  • Interact with parents as people
what can adults do2
What Can Adults Do?
  • Encourage involvement in groups
  • Praise for efforts and abilities
  • Help explore career goals and options
  • Help set guidelines/consequences
  • Establish rituals for significant passages
  • Know friends and what they are doing
  • Provide structured environment/clear expectations