The Physical and Psychological Effects of Puberty Sarah Rempel Psychology 345 Assignment #2 Every individual has experienced this time of uncertainty known as puberty. It brings confusion as adolescents are often trying to figure out who they are and find an identity. Santrok (2007) defines puberty as “a period of rapid physical maturation involving hormonal and bodily changes that take place primarily in early adolescence”. Confusion is often an onset due to physical changes of the body caused by hormonal changes.
These powerful chemicals, known as hormones, are secreted by the endocrine glands and carried through the body by the bloodstream (Santrok, 2007). Two important hormones play functional roles: androgens for male and estrogen for female. Testosterone, also known as an androgen, plays an important role in male pubertal development such as, development of external genitals, an increase in height, and voice change, as well as sexual desire and activity (Santrok, 2007).
Estradiol, also known as estrogen, plays an important role in female pubertal development such as, breast development, uterine development, and skeletal changes such as widening of the hips. The endocrine system plays a significant role in pubertal development as well. The hypothalamus, which is a structure located in the brain, helps regulate and monitor hormone secretion within the body. In connection to this the pituitary gland influences growth by producing growth hormones, in correlation with the thyroid gland, this interacts with the pituitary gland to influence growth.
Growth influences such as height occur in girls earlier than boys. Researchers found that the mean growth spurt age for girls is nine years old and for boys it is at 11 years of age. At the beginning of puberty, girls are generally taller than boys; however, by the end of middle school boys have either caught up to the girls or have surpassed them. Other glands such as the adrenal glands also interact with the pituitary gland and also play a role in pubertal development. The gonads show to play the most significant role in pubertal development.
The gonads are known as the sex gland and are strongly involved in the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair in males and breast development in females (Santrok, 2007). There are two phases of puberty that each adolescent endure that are linked to hormonal changes: adrenarche and gonadarche. The first phase being adrenarche which occurs from 6-9 years of age; the adrenal glands secrete adrenal androgens. The second phase being gonadarche which occur approximately two years post adrenarche.
During this phase, girls experience their first menstrual cycle, otherwise known as menarche; boys experience their first ejaculation of semen, otherwise known as spermarche (Santrok, 2007). During puberty, adolescents also experience changes such as weight gain which is due to the presence of a hormone known as leptin. Leptin concentrations are known to be higher in girls than in boys, and are related to the amount of fat stored for reproduction and the maintenance of pregnancy (Santrok, 2007). Puberty is also known to initiate the most rapid increase in growth since infancy.
In addition to this, adolescents also experience changes in hip and shoulder width. As girls enter into puberty, they experience increased hip width which is linked to estrogen; boys experience increased shoulder width which is linked to an increase in testosterone (Santrok, 2007). It is not just adolescents who undergo developmental changes, people of all ages experience changes in their bodies that affect them in one form or another; however, it is those going through what we have termed as puberty to be the most industrial.
Adolescents not only undergo bodily changes, but experience bodily changes that are accompanied with psychological aspects. One large psychological aspect that often accompanies those going through puberty is body image. Some will accept their bodies and walk with confidence, while others will feel perplexed and be uncertain as to how they should act. As it typically goes, girls are often dissatisfied with their bodies leading to an increase in poor body image.
However, boys are usually on the other side of the spectrum where they show an increase in body satisfaction due to an increase in muscle mass (Santrok, 2007). Hormones play a role in how an individual feels due to an increase or decrease in secretion of the hormones androgens and estrogen. However, these hormones only play a small role in body satisfaction. One question that has been raised regarding puberty is whether or not early or late maturation creates a difference in pubertal consequences.
Much research has performed in regards to this question. Researchers Joanne Williams and Candace Currie supported this in investigating this relation between self-esteem, pubertal timing, and body image in 11 and 13 year old Scottish schoolgirls. Results of their study found that 11-year old girls who experienced early maturation showed to have lower body image ratings (Williams and Currie, 2000). Evidence also shows that body image mediated the relation of pubertal timing on self-esteem.
Participants that were of 13 years of age reported concerns with body size and as well as with their appearance resulting in lower self-esteem. Therefore, results indicate that there is a correlation between self-esteem and pubertal timing (Williams and Currie, 2000). Many different characteristics can be derived as a result of this pubertal timing. Some research has determined that early maturing girls had more problems in school, had increased independence, and were more popular with boys than those girls who were considered to be late in maturation.
Research also determined that those early-maturing girls were happier with their bodies; however, this result swapped when girls reached high school. Those girls who were late in maturation were more satisfied with their bodies once they reached high school than those who were early (Santrok, 2007). Of the early-maturing girls, it has been determined that they are more likely to engage in negative behaviour such as smoking, drinking, eating disorders, depression, early independence from parents, and interact with older friends (Santrok, 2007).
Other research evaluating boys found that those with higher levels of androgens are linked with violence and misbehaviour problems. Research also determined that by providing boys with a dose of testosterone caused an increase in aggression against both peers and adults. Another study performed by Germain et al. (1988) found that the older the boy the higher the expression of modulated anger and less likely he was to show zero signs of anger towards individuals.
Results also found that the higher the stage of puberty the boy was in, the more likely it was to see aggression towards family (Germain et al. , 1988). After much evaluation, it can be determined that puberty is not only a biological determinant but also social timing. Peterson and Crockett performed a study that followed sixth through eighth graders looking at both the biological and social aspects of maturation; of these two topics, subtopics were addressed: school achievement, family relations, peer relations, impulse control, body image, and psychopathology.
Results found a correlation between pubertal timing and school achievement, impulse control, and psychopathology, leading to the possibility of social deviance and less time to complete middle school tasks. No correlation was found between body image and pubertal timing. However, saying that the behavioural changes that accompany puberty are a direct result of biological changes is not just a simple answer to everyone’s question of what causes the onset of puberty and whether or not the timing of it has an effect on the child.
The environment (i. e. parental relations) the individual grows up in and what they are taught also has a profound effect on how an individual will act as they grow up into a young adult. This also correlates with the choices an individual makes as they grow up, as well; stating that pubertal timing and grades are related is insufficient as performance is evaluated based on the individual’s ability to stay task oriented and cannot be determined by pubertal onset. References Germain G. I. Arnold, G. S. , Nottelmann, E. D. , & Susman E. J. (1988). Relations between hormone levels and observational measures of aggressive behaviour of young adolescents in family interaction. Developmental Psychology (24)1, 129-139. Santrok, J. W. (2007). Adolescence (11th ed. )New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. Williams, J. M. & Currie, C. (2000). Self-esteem and physical development in early adolescence: pubertal timing and body image. The Journal of Early Adolescence (20) 129-149.