Adolescents go through a significant amount of changes as they transit into adulthood, thus making this phase critical among normal development stages. It is important however to note that while this stage is indeed critical, preceding stages are equally important given that they greatly impact well-being of a teenager during adolescence and in adulthood. As far as normal development is concerned, expectations for adolescents include, among other things, physical growth with secondary sexual characteristics depending on the child’s gender, cognitive skills and abilities, including understanding of complex situations and problems, as well as the formation and maintenance of intimate relationships. This paper focuses on normal development of an individual during the adolescent stage with emphasis on biological growth, psychological development, and social factors that come into play in their lives, as well as their significance at this stage. In addition, the paper discusses a non-typical event that could affect the adolescent’s development.
This can be considered as a person’s physical growth. Biological development depends on person’s age and gender. In adolescent females, the first sign of adolescence would be budding breasts that appear as early as during their eighth year. Langton and Berger (2011) note that this means that the body is developing female secondary sexual characteristics that include widening of hips, growth of pubic and armpit hair, as well as the menarche. For boys, the secondary characteristics include broader shoulders, a deep voice, and general body hair, which could be pubic, armpit, chest, legs, and facial hair. When considering biological development, however, it is crucial to consider genetic factors that affect body structure and growth levels given that not all adolescents can have the same body features. Some boys are known to break their voices as early as on their 10th birthday while others wait until they turn 17 or even 18 (Langton & Berger, 2011). Others actually never break their voices for one reason or another. Boys however are likely to notice growth in their genitals as they approach adulthood and frequent wet dreams come with this growth.
Christie and Viner (2005) state that there are a lot of issues relating to consciousness that these teenagers have to deal with along with all changes in the adolescent’s physique. They thus develop some level of sensitivity that affects all aspects of their lives, including psychological growth. First, they tend to pull away from their parents in a bid to find themselves in a new and confusing world. They seek the company of those that they believe are going through similar challenges and this often includes their friends and peers. This means that the first psychological development that they go through is with respect to formation and maintenance of intimate relationships outside their initial comfort zones.
They also tend to become more and more independent, especially when making personal decisions. Rather than depending on their parents, they use their peers for reference and mostly try to fit in by doing what will be rated as ‘cool’ by people with whom they have formed a close bond. They develop the ability to test their ideas before executing them and this often happens within their selected ‘safe havens’, which more often than not would be a group of their peers or their selected best friends.
They also become rather moody and are easily depressed due to self-consciousness and heightened sensitivity. The fact that they are going through a lot of new things makes adolescents rather irritable whereby they get hurt or angry at the slightest provocation and in some cases with no reason at all. This often then translates into rebellious behavior and moving further away from parents in terms of ideology and expectations. The attitude here resembles a revolution when parents are seen as controlling and unfairly strict, often being presumed not to understand needs of their child. Thus, this child sees a need to act out in order to be heard and considered in decisions that affect life.
Thinking is also likely to change with more focus on the present and not the future. This means that the child is likely to pay more attention to short-term goals and forget long-term implications of choices. Adolescents are also likely to have a new interest in their intellectual activities with a greater capacity to carry out both physical and mental work. Psychological development during this stage is both impressive and frightening and the child keeps alternating between happiness because of new abilities and self-consciousness over physical changes and new emotions being experienced. Another important development here concerns sexuality as adolescents feel a need to define themselves in terms of sexual feelings they experience.
Main social factors that come into play in the adolescent’s life include school, church, and community. School provides an opportunity for an individual to meet and interact with their peers, often enabling to form and retain intimate relationships that could be long- or short-term depending on the circumstances (Killen & Coplan, 2011). School is thus a place for them to find friends and occasionally hide out when they need to avoid their parents for whatever reasons. School also offers them an opportunity to learn about changes that they experience through biology and sex education as well as discussions with their friends and age mates. Among other things, school often impacts child’s development by providing peers that they will interact and form relationships with, as well as information that they need in order to understand changes that they are going through.
Church is known for giving guidance and showing the way to those who feel lost within the community. It is thus expected to be a shelter where these children can go for guidance with youth’s pastors and mentors depending on the type of church they go to. In some churches, there are programs to mentor the youth and help them go through adolescence without neglecting their spiritual and intellectual needs. These churches help with stabilizing adolescents and enabling them to accept themselves as they are, thus developing a higher self-esteem.
The community also provides mentorship by dictating the adolescent’s moral compass. The society that one grows in during teenage years greatly affects what they consider as wrong or right. This means that the community affects the child’s social constructs relating to right and wrong, thus heavily determining who they become in future. A society that discredits people based on their physical appearance would thus breed a generation of adolescents who only feel successful if they feel beautiful and who are only able to make an effort if they think they are ‘hot’ enough to be taken seriously. It is thus important for the society to consider its definitions of success and to be accommodating enough to inspire rather than discourage adolescents.
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Non-Typical Event and Its Impact on the Bio-Psycho-Social Development
A female child who loses her father during her adolescent years is likely to develop restraint when it comes to forming long-term relationships, especially with men in her life. When her father walks out, she is likely to lose her trust in men and associate his desertion with him being male. Given that he is her first male relationship, his actions will then be projected to all other men in her life who will either not be trusted and thus completely avoided or given the benefit of doubt, but feared to a larger extent.
The first impact of such an event would be psychological where formation of intimate relationships is compromised owing to the hurt that she experiences with her father’s desertion. This will inhibit, among other things, her ability to trust in men as she will expect them to leave at any point like her father did. Secondly, child’s social development is hampered by her fear of desertion. Having experienced her father’s leaving, she would not want to open up to anyone who could just as easily walk out of her life. She thus tends to be either too clingy to people she interacts with or too distant to form meaningful intimate relationships.
Biologically, this departure may not affect the child in any way except that sexuality could be compromised (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2009). While staying away from men, she may develop a need to share her sexuality with women who at this point are relatively more reliable than men. While it has not been proven yet that most lesbians suffered a desertion of their fathers, it is a possibility seeing as they find themselves incapable of trusting men and thus only considering women as reliable.
A bio-psycho-social perspective in understanding human development allows for consideration of all factors that an individual is exposed to and their effects upon the normal development curve that is expected. The most significant aspect here is that the approach allows taking all factors that are expected to affect the child’s growth. School, church, and community all have a significant role to play in the normal development of the individual during adolescent years.