Teenage Development
Changing Physiology and Psychology

Physical growth pattern during teenage

Teenage development is a phase of rapid physical growth that is only second to the rate of growth seen during infancy.

The rapid growth phase of adolescence lasts for 4-5 years, when on an average: Girls gain 8.3 cm. per year and boys gain about 9.5 cm. per year.

Teenage Growth Pattern
  • During 7 years of adolescent development children gain half of the total expected gain in height required to achieve the adult height.

  • One-third of total height gain is reached in the first 3 years of life.

  • The 10 years between 3 and 13 years of age fall in the slow phase of child growth.

  • Along with the corresponding gain in body weight teenagers are propelled towards adult size and form: Growth spurt of adolescence

  • The development of secondary sex characters is emphasized with the onset of puberty and the associated hormonal surge.

  • The brain of a teenager is in the process of development.
    Though normal brain growth and development almost reaches the adult values by 6 years of age, maturation of neural synapses continues well into teens and adulthood, but at a much slower pace. Studies show that the connections between neurons affecting emotional, physical, and mental abilities are incomplete iin adolescence.

Psychosocial development

Teenagers usually exhibit ambivalence almost in every approach. 

It is the adolescence ambivalence that
causes emotional stress and conflicts
both in teenagers and their parents.
But it also 
is an integral part of teens psycho-social development.

Why are teenagers ambivalent?

The immature neuronal connections between emotional, physical, and mental abilities explains the impulsiveness, lack of judgement and episodic emotional outbursts seen in teenage children.

Influence of teenage development on decision making

  • With progressive cognitive development, adolescents’ thinking becomes more logical and less self-centered.

  • They become more future-oriented and are able to make long-term plans, like choosing a profession and pursuing career oriented studies.

  • Patience for delayed gratification.

  • Ability to compromise.

  • Ability to set limits.

  • Independent thinking.

  • Children in late teenage are often idealistic.

  • Actions are dominated by abstract thoughts of justice, morals, and patriotism.

Positive re-enforcement helps build self-esteem

Adolescents need a lot of positive re-enforcement rather than criticism for their short comings. This helps build their self-esteem and prevents them from becoming perfectionist, absolutist and intolerant of opposing views.

Emotional stress caused due to various challenges and expectations during teens can even precipitate stuttering, teenage depression or other psychiatric disturbances.

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Healthy body image during teens builds positive self-esteem

The great growth spurt of teenage development brings in sudden massive changes in children’s body structure. It is therefore only natural that children are anxious about their appearance during the phase of teenage development.

They usually compare their looks and body structure with the media models, who all are projected to be very thin females or muscular males – Not really a normal natural phenomenon of teenage development.

Although it is hard to say, what should be the healthy weight for a particular individual, there are some methods to predicted adult height and
height to weight growth charts.

Healthy body image is important for building positive self-esteem during adolescence. BMI evaluation can give more realistic picture of fatness in an individual, but each method has its limitation.

The anxiousness about the body image can lead to eating disorders, especially in teenage girls. It is therefore also important to cultivate healthy eating food habits right from pre-teen years.

Adolescent development stages

Preteens: 10-13 years of age

  • Interested in youth culture.

  • Peer friendship gains importance.

  • Get more assertive with parents mainly about their own and the peer group’s views.

  • Begins to understand the rules of social groups, though not the principles behind them.

Early teens: 13-15 years of age

Adolescents in early teens psychologically leave behind their childhood and begin inspecting the adult world that lies ahead; the consequences being:

  • Uncertainty and indecisiveness about the course that they would like to follow.

  • Questioning attitude: More so towards parents.

  • Peer-relationship yet Not critical.

Mid teens: 15-17 years of age

  • Sexual identity firmly set:

    i.) Generates sexual feeling and sexual drive.

    ii.) Enhances gender-role identity.

    iii.) Children in mid-teens develop an inclination to experiment the newly acquired sexual role, but fear being ridiculed.

  • Social identity out of the family:

    i.) Widens the social network that includes number of significant adults.

    ii.) Begin to rely on parents once again due to the increase in their own ambivalence: Result in loss of autonomy that children seek for in early teens, but is a step towards maturation.

    In 1965, Winnicott, the pioneering child psychoanalyst explained this stage of teenage development as development of mature dependence.

    Winnicott’s explains it as, “Paradoxically, it is only possible to develop a capacity of self-sufficiency if one is able to depend upon others at times of intimacy or stress. That is a capacity for mature dependence, whose full development often extends into third or fourth decade of life.”

    iii.) Achieve emotional independence.

    iv.) Establishes a satisfactory work identity:
    a.) Gives a boost to teenagers self-esteem.
    b.) Improve competence.
    c.) Capacity to be able to put in sustained effort
    d.) Have realistic goals

    However, this is dependent on the socio-economic conditions in the society.

    High rate of unemployment among youths and difficult higher education systems are prevalent in many countries. They shatter their youths' self-esteem and jeopardizes the progress.

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Late teens: 18 years on wards 

  • Association with chosen adults out of the immediate family
  • Work identity gets firmly established.

  • Sexual identity is established.

  • Peer group activities.

  • Stay with parents.

  • Emotional involvement with non family members.

  • Parents are the source of teenagers'
    emotional and psychological security, thereby the force behind their success.

Both, the teenagers and the parents go through a particularly stressful stage during the teenage development. Nevertheless, they should be able to finally emerge as happy well adjusted individuals.

“Youths are the strength of our future. Help them through adolescent development rather than humble them for their ambivalence at every turn of teenage development: A phase that is full of turmoils due to naturally changing hormones, body shape, and social needs.”

"Share your teenage turmoils:" Many families may benefit from your experiences and tips.

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Read also "Teens Development" under "Childhood Development".

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