The Physical and Psychological Effects of Puberty
Every individual has experienced this time of uncertainty known as puberty. It brings confusion as adolescents are often trying to figure out who they are and find an identity. Santrok (2007) defines puberty as “a period of rapid physical maturation involving hormonal and bodily changes that take place primarily in early adolescence”.
Confusion is often an onset due to physical changes of the body caused by hormonal changes. These powerful chemicals, known as hormones, are secreted by the endocrine glands and carried through the body by the bloodstream (Santrok, 2007). Two important hormones play functional roles: androgens for male and estrogen for female. Testosterone, also known as an androgen, plays an important role in male pubertal development such as, development of external genitals, an increase in height, and voice change, as well as sexual desire and activity (Santrok, 2007). Estradiol, also known as estrogen, plays an important role in female pubertal development such as, breast development, uterine development, and skeletal changes such as widening of the hips. The endocrine system plays a significant role in pubertal development as well. The hypothalamus, which is a structure located in the brain, helps regulate and monitor hormone secretion within the body. In connection to this the pituitary gland influences growth by producing growth hormones, in correlation with the thyroid gland, this interacts with the pituitary gland to influence growth. Growth influences such as height occur in girls earlier than boys. Researchers found that the mean growth spurt age for girls is nine years old and for boys it is at 11 years of age. At the beginning of puberty, girls are generally taller than boys; however, by the end of middle school boys have either caught up to the girls or have surpassed them. Other glands such as the adrenal glands also interact with the pituitary gland and also play a role in pubertal development. The gonads show to play the most significant role in pubertal development. The gonads are known as the sex gland and are strongly involved in the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair in males and breast development in females (Santrok, 2007).
There are two phases of puberty that each adolescent endure that are linked to hormonal changes: adrenarche and gonadarche. The first phase being adrenarche which occurs from 6-9 years of age; the adrenal glands secrete adrenal androgens. The second phase being gonadarche which occur approximately two years post adrenarche. During this phase, girls experience their first menstrual cycle, otherwise known as menarche; boys experience their first ejaculation of semen, otherwise known as spermarche (Santrok, 2007). During puberty, adolescents also experience changes such as weight gain which is due to the presence of a hormone known as leptin. Leptin concentrations are known to be higher in girls than in boys, and are related to the amount of fat stored for reproduction and the maintenance of pregnancy (Santrok, 2007). Puberty is also known to initiate the most rapid increase in growth since infancy. In addition to this, adolescents also experience changes in hip and shoulder width. As girls enter into puberty, they experience increased hip width which is linked to estrogen; boys experience increased shoulder width which is linked to an increase in testosterone (Santrok, 2007).
It is not just adolescents who undergo developmental changes, people of all ages experience changes in their bodies that affect them in one form or another; however, it is those going through what we have termed as puberty to be the most industrial. Adolescents not only undergo bodily changes, but experience bodily changes that are accompanied with psychological aspects.
One large psychological aspect that often accompanies...
References: Germain G.I., Arnold, G.S., Nottelmann, E.D., & Susman E.J.(1988). Relations between hormone levels and observational measures of aggressive behaviour of young adolescents in family interaction. Developmental Psychology (24)1, 129-139.
Santrok, J.W. (2007). Adolescence (11th ed.)New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
Williams, J.M. & Currie, C. (2000). Self-esteem and physical development in early adolescence: pubertal timing and body image. The Journal of Early Adolescence (20) 129-149.
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