Adolescent Development in the Church

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Thesis
Adolescent’s are in a stage of extreme physical, mental, social, cognitive, and spiritual development and need relational guidance in developing a healthy identity in Christ. The Stages of Development

There are four developmental aspects that need to be covered in adolescent development. The first developmental theory in the adolescent stage is Jean Piaget’s theory of the formal operational stage. In this developmental stage the person is developing the capacity for abstract, systematic, and scientific thinking.[1] Within this developmental stage, adolescents are capable of hypothetico-deductive reasoning, in which a child is able to come up with hypothetical situations and then deduce logical outcomes. They also form propositional thoughts, which is the ability to evaluate the logic of propositions without referring to real-world circumstances. In addition to this, metacognition is central to the development of their cognition. In metacognition, the awareness of thought is expanding, leading to new insights into effective strategies for acquiring information and solving problems[2]. An interesting aspect of this developmental stage is that there is a concept called the imaginary audience in which adolescents believe that they are the focus of everyone else’s attention and concern.[3] This is a consequence of the cognitive development that is taking place, which explains the self-consciousness that many adolescents face. Along with the imaginary audience, there is personal fable, which also affects self-esteem and peer acceptance. Personal fable is the adolescent’s development of a self-inflated opinion of their own importance.[4] With all of these cognitive developmental changes, the physical growth also plays a huge factor in the life of an adolescent. This is the physical stage where children transition into adulthood. Puberty is reached in the adolescent stage, which includes a massive change in their bodies. This is the stage of distinct physical differentiation since prenatal life. The changes in females and males are quite different, but what is evident is that both sexes are maturing in sexual characteristics.[5] For females, there is a budding of breasts, a growth spurt, the start of menstruation, and pubic hair growth. For males, there is an enlargement of testes, changes in texture and color of scrotum, pubic hair growth, penis begins to enlarge, deepening of voice, and prostate gland and seminal vesicles enlarge. Another area of the body that is changing is the brain. Arzola recognizes, “two functions or processes that occur during adolescent brain development which are . . . (1) the use-it or lose it principle and (2) the window of opportunity principle.”[6] Basically, what the first principle shows is that the brain is using certain parts of it and the parts that are not being used or neglected will die or fall off. This is speaking of the neurons, which are the brain cells. So if adolescents are exposed to positive reinforcement, sports, discipleship, love and good manners then those neurons will flourish. The window of opportunity principle is best described in the kitten experiment conducted by Hubel and Wiesel. “In one of their early experiments, the eyelids of newborn kittens were sutured . . . The kittens were well cared for in every other way. Three months later, the sutures were removed. Even though the eyes of the kittens were intact, the animals were blind. And, they remained blind for the rest of their lives.”[7] The resulting blindness was because the brain cells that would have been used for vision were not used, so they died or were reassigned to some other useful function. This also applies for adolescents who have experiences that have hard-wired them during that window of opportunity earlier in their lives.

In addition to all of these physical and cognitive changes, there is the psychological development, which is contributed to by Erik Erikson. In this...
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