Specific behavioral changes are associated with puberty and its
timing.1-3 Androgens have been implicated as the
cause of many of the changes associated with adolescence.4,5 Family
relationships undergo a transformation during puberty.6,7 During
peak height velocity (Tanner and Marshall sexual maturity rating [SMR] 3–4),
boys experience more conflict with their parents, especially their
mothers. This conflict tends to subside after completion of puberty,
with mothers deferring more to their sons. Girls experience conflict
with their mothers, and girls report decreased contact with their
fathers. Hormones have been implicated as the cause of many of the
behavior changes associated with normal and abnormal adolescence.
Sexual behavior is associated with changes in androgens.8 Boys,
with rising levels of testosterone, initiate coitus, and they are
reported to be more impatient, aggressive, and irritable. For girls,
an increase in masturbatory activity is associated with rising levels
Specific psychosocial effects have been correlated with timing
of pubertal maturation.2 Earlier maturation for
girls is associated with greater dissatisfaction with physical characteristics,
lower self-esteem, and general unhappiness. Early-developing girls
receive less recognition from same-sex peers and tend to associate
with older adolescents. The early-maturing girl shows increased
interest in sexuality, early identity crises, greater interest in independence
and decision-making, and more problem behavior in school with decreased
interest in academic activities.9,10
For boys, early pubertal maturation is also associated with an
increased tendency to initiate coitus. Late pubertal development in
boys may be associated with adverse psychological effects. Late-developing
boys may exhibit a more negative self-concept and body image with
an increased frequency of identity crises than other same-aged boys
of normal development.
For both girls and boys, late physical maturation appears to
be protective for initiation of most risky behaviors. The social
environment tends to provide more guidance and support for these
physically immature adolescents.9
While adolescence is often characterized as a period of psychological
turmoil, most adolescents successfully navigate the important transitions
of this period in the life cycle.11-13 The growing
field of positive youth development has focused on developing personal,
environmental, and social assets that enable successful transition
from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.14,15 Despite
adversity, many adolescents are surprisingly resilient.13 Most
adolescents are attached to their families and communities, succeed
in school, and traverse their teen/emerging adult years
without serious problems.14
The adolescent is confronted with a series of psychological changes
that, if mastered, allow for optimal functioning as an adult. An
understanding of psychological development in adolescence enables
the clinician to assess whether psychosocial development of the
teenager is normal as well as helps the clinician to be an effective
communicator with teenagers.11,15 Successful psychological
development during adolescence involves developing competence in
a number of realms: cognitive, moral, emotional, and social.
1. Cognitive development, or the ...
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