The Nature of Changes during Adolescence
Adolescence is characterized by a rapid rate of growth and development. During this period, the body develops in size, strength and reproductive capabilities, and the mind become capable of more abstract thinking. Social relationships move from being centered on the family base to a wider horizon in which peers and other adults come to play significant roles in the adolescent's life. It is also a time when new skills and knowledge are acquired and new attitudes are formed.
Although the decade of life from 10 to 19 years provides a time-bound definition of adolescence, it is important to realize that the changes occurring during this period may not correspond neatly with precise ages. This is because variation is perceived differently by different cultures; its perception is clearly mediated by social, economic and cultural factors. Hence, the experience of adolescents differs among individuals and by sex in any given society, and by varying conditions and circumstances such as disability, illness, socioeconomic status and poverty.
Peak rate of growth and development during adolescence are exceeded only by those during foetal life and infancy. However, as indicated above, in comparison with infancy and early childhood, there is much greater individual variation both in the timing of developmental milestones, and in the degree of changes in rates of growth.
Adolescence is sometimes divided into early, middle and late periods, which are respectively the 10-14, 15-17 and 18-19 year age groups (see table on next page). These periods roughly correspond with the phases in physical, social and psychological development in the transition from childhood to adulthood. While these changes are not universally accepted, and vary as above, they provide a basic framework to understand adolescent development.
Pubertal development starts 1-2 years earlier in girls as compared to boys. There is a wide variation in age and velocity with which growth and development proceeds. In a group of adolescents who are growing together this wide variation leads to development of anxiety - "Am I normal?" an needs a lot of reassurance. Appearance of secondary sexual characters before the age of 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys, and non-appearance of secondary sexual characters by the age of 13 years in girls and 14 years in boys is considered abnormal. Such cases should be referred to higher center for management. A girl who does not start menstruation by 16 years age should also be referred.
Changes during Adolescence
|Early 10-14 years
||Middle 15-17 years||Late 18-19 years|
- Rapid physical growth
- Body image