Development of Adolescents Essay

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¶ … Adolesents

Development of Adolescents

It is important for teachers and adults to be familiar with adolescent cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development in order to create an environment conducive to their learning and well-being. This is a time during which a child is moving through a series of significant changes from childhood to adulthood. This period offers many challenges for both parents and teachers. Understanding the different aspects of adolescents can help adults facilitate the process and provide the needed support.

Cognitive Development

According to Tim Wendel (2003) until recently the teenage brain was thought to be finished developing given that its structure does not change much after childhood. The prevailing belief was that it only required fine tuning. However, as scientists began to use MRI imaging they found that the teenage brain is actually a work in progress. During adolescents the brain undergoes dramatic changes from the thickening and then the thinning of gray matter to the development of the frontal lobes. These changes affect everything from schoolwork and sleep patterns to a teen's predisposition for taking risks.

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A desire for thrills and risk taking is a characteristic of adolescent behavior. The frontal lobes assist on controlling risky behavior; however they are one of the last areas of the brain to develop fully. In puberty they actually grow larger than adult size, nonetheless, refinement of the frontal lobes can last into the early twenties. The frontal lobes enable a person to analyze the consequences of their behavior. Stress may exacerbate the decision making process in teens. Research also indicates that higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine make teens seek stimulation, including risky behavior (Wendel, 2003).

Essay on Development of Adolescents Assignment

Other areas of the brain are also changing during adolescence. The corpus callosum, a thick bundle of nerves that connect the left and right hemisphere of the brain enlarges. The anterior cingulated gyrus, which assists focus, matures, as do key areas in the cerebral cortex. This development may explain why a struggling student may suddenly experience an epiphany and understand subject material that was once unavailable. Experts suggest that math, music, and sports can help structure the brain faster (Wendel, 2003).

Another consideration is the production of melatonin in the adolescent brain. This chemical helps to make us drowsy and in the teen it is secreted later at night, pushing teens to stay up later at night. Studies show that teens average seven and a half hours of sleep a night, but for brain development nine hours is preferred, therefore most teens are sleep deprived resulting in problems in the development of the frontal cortex and other areas of the brain. We are only now learning of the effects of sleep on learning and memory (Wendel, 2003).

Social Development

The search for independence from adults and the establishment of their own identity is at the root of early adolescent social behavior and development. For teenagers it is essential to be acceptable to others. The number of friendships a person has is a direct measure of popularity, acceptance and approval. During this period having friends and pleasing friends is of vital importance therefore the friendship formed and the people with whom they are formed may have an influence in determining the teenager's future direction.

It is common for adolescents to switch allegiance from family to peer groups. It is important not to underestimate the influence and power the peer group and its members have upon the adolescent. Often parents are resistant to reports of their teenager's misbehavior and respond with denial and disbelief to reports of their whereabouts and activities. In trying to please both adults/parents and peers adolescents will sometimes assume two personalities, one for home/adults and one for peers (Caissy, 1987b).

Despite having a strong desire to increase their independence and personal decision making adolescents are often reluctant to leave the security of the adult world and the reassurance and direction associated. This results in vacillation between a desire for regulation and direction and the demand for independence. One moment a teen wants adult input, the next they do not. Often teachers and adults are caught between conflicting demands not knowing how to respond. Early adolescents want to identify with adults but at the same time reserve the right to accept or reject their suggestions. Their tendency to be easily offended leads them to believe that adults do not understand them. Furthermore implied or expressed criticism from adult sources is not easily tolerated, even when it concerns things the teenager is prone to criticize themselves.

For some, part of the breaking away process may be a strong need to rebel against adults. This rebellion may cause havoc in classrooms and homes. During this time teens often do the opposite of what adults want them to do. This can become increasingly annoying and intolerable to those who have to cope with this behavior. It is important to understand that the function of this rebellion is to reinforce the process of becoming free from adult authority and dependence (Caissy, 1987b).

Emotional Development

Teenagers are frequently described as moody, volatile, irritable and impulsive. These emotional behaviors are closely related to their biological development. According to Caissy (1987a) hormones are released into the body at uneven rates and speeds and create temporary chemical imbalances in the body. These imbalances greatly contribute to the characteristic adolescent flux in emotions. A variety of emotions are common to this age group. Additionally, the release of tension through emotional outburst is a reflection of rapid shifts and variations in mood.

The emotions of early adolescents are unpredictable and extreme. Teenagers commonly release their emotions, such as anger and frustration, on those who have nothing to do with the cause. They eventually recognize that lashing out irrationally, especially in front of their peers, is not as acceptable as it was during childhood. As a result, they learn to control and relieve their feelings in a socially acceptable way. Appropriate reactions are often determined by observing what adults and role models do in similar situations.

Anger, triggered by frustration, is one of the stronger emotions of adolescents. These outbursts are often the result of what the teen perceives to be unfairness, the borrowing or taking of their belongings, infringement on their privacy, teasing, and being talked about. Adolescents also harbor many fears, usually related to social situations. They worry about school (more about social aspects than academic), appearance, and how to act with members of the opposite sex. Many are also anxious about their physical appearance. Throughout their emotional development adolescents remain insecure. It is important to provide the emotional support, understanding, and reassurance of their worth and ability during this period (Caissy, 1987a).

Physical Development

There is great variability in the age of onset and the rate of development of early adolescence among individuals, it cannot be exactly predicted. A look at the students that make up a typical early adolescents classroom will attest to this. In most cases the process begins sometime between the ages of ten and fifteen. The timing of early adolescence is under the control of the central nervous system in the brain and the endocrine system. Furthermore the onset of puberty depends upon a child's achievement of a particular weight and/or height. The critical weight necessary to stimulate hormone production in females is about 30 kilograms (66 pounds). Boys reach the critical weight at about 37 kilograms (81 pounds). When this level of weight is achieved in children, it triggers the body's metabolism to increase activity in the endocrine glands which produce hormones. As these growth hormones are released into the blood stream of the body, a growth spurt and the sexual development of the child begins (Caissy, 1986).

The physical effects of adolescence are broad; temporary myopia can develop while the lens of the eye adjusts to physical change. Sitting on a hard chair can become painful due to the ossification of cartilage. The weight of the heart nearly doubles and functional heart murmurs sometimes develop. All these physical changes may have an impact on behavior. The average annual weight gain during adolescence is about eight to ten pounds while the average annual gain in height is two to four inches.

The body does not develop as a whole during adolescence. Different parts of the body experience growth at different times. Normally the outer extremities develop first, hands and feet, followed by the arms and legs. These are followed by development in hip width and chest breadth. Shoulder breadth follows, then the trunk lengthens and chest depth is established. This growth pattern normally occurs at four-month intervals (Caissy, 1986).

Meeting Adolescent Needs in the Classroom

Recognizing the needs of adolescent students and focusing on meeting those needs in the classroom can generate solutions to motivation problems. Motivation is what energizes a student to learn. Farris (1990) points out middle level learners, caught in early adolescents, have a unique set of needs both individually and collectively. In order to be successful effective teachers must connect… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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