Adolescent is a person who is no longer a child but not yet an adult. The word adolescent comes from the Latin term adolescents, which means growing up or growing towards. An adolescent is someone who is “growing toward” adulthood. Most western societies consider a person to be an adolescent from about 13 to at least 18 years of age. In these societies adolescence thus roughly corresponds to the teenagers.
Adolescence begins with a period of dramatic sexual development called puberty. A sudden increase in the activity of certain glands, especially the hypothalamus, pineal, pituitary, and sex glands bring on puberty.
At the start of puberty, girls’ breasts become to grow, her hips widen, and hair grows under her arms and around her genitals. A year or so after these changes begin, she has her first menstrual period. When a boy starts puberty, hair grows around his genitals, on his face and on other parts of his body. His genitals become larger, his voice deepens. Most girls start puberty at about age of 11. Most boys start at about age of 13. Puberty ends when a girl or boy reaches sexual maturity i.e. becoming capable of reproduction. Most adolescents are sexually mature two or three years after they start puberty.
The increased glandular activity that brings on puberty also causes other physical changes in adolescents. These changes include rapid changes in height and weight. Most girls start to grow rapidly at about 9 to 12 year of age. Girls are normally taller and heavier than boys during these years. During the early teens, most boys start to grow rapidly, and girls’ rate of growth declines. After about the about the age of 14, males are heavier and taller, on average, than females. Most males reach adult size during their late teens or early twenties. Most females reach it somewhat earlier.
Many younger adolescents become intensely concerned about their physical appearance. They may complain that they are too tall or too short, that their hands and feet are too big or too small, and overall they are unattractive and awkward (Clumsy). A girl who matures early may feel self-conscious because her breasts are noticeably larger than those of other girls of her age. A girl who matures late may feel self-conscious for the opposite reason. Late maturing adolescents – especially boys tend to have a poorer opinion of themselves than do adolescents who mature early or at an average rate. They may also have more difficulties making friends. In most cases, however, these difficulties disappear as the boy or girl matures physically. Acne or pimples embarrass many teenagers, though minor skin problems are common during adolescence.
The concern that younger teenagers have about their appearance is understandable. Adolescents feel a strong need to compare favorably with others of their age. Anything that makes different may upset them. Differences in physical development are obvious during the early teenage years, and so they naturally become a focus of attention. During middle and late adolescence such differences fade in importance.
Most young people mature sexually by the age of 14 or 15. They are thus physically able to have children. In some societies, girls are considered enable for marriage at this age. But generally a young person of this lacks the experience and social maturity needed to function as an adult in most societies today. People are considered socially mature if they can act independently and accept full responsibility for their actions. Developing this ability is the chief task of an adolescent.
Most adolescents welcome the opportunity to take on more responsibility and become more independent. However, they may have difficulty at first in handling the challenge. To accept responsibility, a person needs self-confidence. But it is hard to develop self-confidence if the self seems to be constantly changing. Younger adolescents have this difficulty because of the many physical changes they go through during puberty. These changes tend to interfere with an adolescent’s sense of personal identity- that is, the awareness about one-self as a consistently whole person. As adolescents mature physically, they normally develop a strong sense of personal identity and greater self-confidence. Their capacity for social development then increases.
Adolescents develop sociality chiefly by expanding and testing their social relationships. A young child’s social environment usually affixes on the home. Children model themselves on their parents or other adults they know and admire. They may adopt bad traits as well as good ones, and so adults have a heavy responsibility in their behavior in front of children. In general, young children avoid types of behavior which their parents or elders disapprove. However, most adolescents become deeply involved with their peer group that in their circle of friends and acquaintances. These teenagers look to their peer group, rather than to their parents for approval, and they may change their behavior to win that approval. With in the peer group, adolescents also begin to define their relationships with opposite sex.
Family relationships are important to teenagers, though in ways that are not always apparent. Most teenagers prefer the company of their friends to that of their family. While at home, they often prefer being alone. These preferences are normal, though they may not seem so to the adolescent’s family. Conflicts between an adolescent and younger family member usually lessen as the family adjusts to the adolescent’s need for independence and privacy. But adolescents often have increasing conflicts with their parents over the amount of freedom they think they deserve.
Social development is easiest for adolescents who feel that their parents love and trust them. Parental love should include discipline, and so the teenager who is truly loved will receive guidance. Parents display trust by granting their children sufficient freedom. An over protected adolescent may have great difficulty learning to act independently.
Peer group relationships help adolescents learn to deal with people on an equal basis. Developing this ability is an important part of becoming an adult. However, adolescents tend to measure social developments chiefly in terms of their personal popularity. They assume they are developing normally if their peers accept and like them.
Teenagers thus become absorbed in matters they think to affect their popularity, such as their style of dressing, leadership ability, and success with the opposite sex. Parents may be annoyed by the amount of time and energy an adolescent devotes to such concerns. But these concerns are part of growing up, and teenagers need freedom to pursue them.
Adolescents who have a strong need for peer group approval may feel forced to adopt all of the group’s values. Problems arise if these values conflict with the ones taught at home. Parents should try to remember that the choice is not always easy for a teenager to make. Girls tend to have more difficulty resolving these conflicts than boys do, probably because girls are expected to be better behaved and, in some societies, remain more closely under parental supervision.
During early adolescence, boys and girls get together mainly in group activities, such as school functions, parties and club meetings. Friendships often lead to dating, a casual courtship with some sexual involvement. Older teenagers may have serious relationships with a particular partner. The amount of freedom allowed to boys and girls to socialize and date may vary according to social, religious and moral customs of that particular society around the world.
The earliest age at which people may marry varies among societies. People under 18 are generally not mature enough to take on the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. But most adolescents mature sexually long before the age of 18 and many of them find it difficult to control their sexual desires. However, sexual relationships involve moral and practical considerations. Many people regard intercourse outside marriage as morally wrong. In addition, such relationships may produce serious consequences, especially unwanted pregnancies.
Despite sex education in schools and the availability of birth control, many teenage girls become pregnant each year. A few have miscarriages, and a growing number have medical abortions. The rest have the child outside marriage. Teenagers who have sexual relations also run a high risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease. The sexually transmitted disease rate among teenagers is far greater than among adults.