Physical, Cognitive, & Identity

Development in Adolescense

Physical Development

Puberty marks a major change of development in adolescence.

  • Begins with the pituitary gland producing hormones that stimulate hormone productions in the gonads
  • Produce the maturing of both primary and secondary sexual characteristics

  • Timing can be affected by genetic factors and mothers and daughters menarche are correlated
  • The average age has been decreasing in males and females over the years
    - Factors can be affected by weight: higher body mass contributes to early periods while underweight, athletic enthusiasts will delay puberty

Growth Spurt Corresponds with Puberty

  • increases in height and weight
  • different parts of the body grow at different times
    - arms and legs before the torso
  • gender differences in growth increase both internal and external sexual dimorphism

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The Changing Brain

  • Brain changes during adolescence are the most dramatic and important to occur during the lifespan
  • The brain also goes through a "growth spurt" during puberty
  • Pruning takes place
    - frontal lobes: organization, planning, self-control and judgement
    - parietal lobes: integrating information
    - temporal lobes: language functions and emotion regulation
    - corpus callosum: information integration and consciousness
  • white matter increases
  • ongoing myelination allows faster processing


  • includes increased conflict with parents, moodiness, negative affect, and risky behavior
  • Depressed mood is affected by an increase in hormones if they are combined with negative life events
  • Earlier maturation in girls contributes to greater moodiness and stress
  • Later maturation for boys causes additional turmoil

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Cognitive Development

* Piaget's 4th state of development is logical thinking: 11-12 year olds begin to be able to think logically about concepts, develop relationships.

* Formal operational thought begins to improve and young individuals begin to form ideals such as political identification. Young people have a difficult time understanding that their ideals are not fact. This leads to adolescent egocentrism and contributes towards a very critical view of anything less than perfect, including themselves.

* Other aspects of egocentrism include focus on self and the need to develop an adult like identity

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Identity Development

Contributions to Identity Development

  • Many theories to describe identity development:
    GENDER: Some research has found gender differences while some have not. When differences are found, women are more likely to assign interpersonal
    aspects of themselves as a priority

    Studies have not proven the assumption that women value intimacy more than
    identity. Growth in both autonomy and connection are important for males and

    ETHNICITY: Achievement of ethnic identity is described in different groups.
    - does not initially mean a lot in the search for identity
    - individuals experience ambivalence that makes ethnicity a personal matter
    and they begin to explore what that means to them
    - highest stage is achieved when an individual affirms their identity as a
    group member

Applying these concepts to the field:

  • understanding the phases adolescents will go through will help meet them where they are at
  • Learning more about culture and ethnicity will help encourage that growth in adolescents as evidence has suggested this as a protective factor in adolescence