Lecture 8: physical, cognitive and psychosocial development in adolescence Flashcards Preview

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Aus Indigenous vs Modern Western cultures

• Period from about age 12-18 years

• Traditional Indigenous Australians

   • Initiation at puberty
   • Abrupt social role change to adult

• Modern Western cultures
   • Period of gradual transition

   • Coming-of-age 



Primary sex characteristics

Secondary sex characterisitcs 


Primary sex characteristics

• Development of sex organs

Secondary sex characteristics
• External/physiological changes/signs of sexual maturation

Release of gonadotrophin stimulates

  • Male testes to increase testosterone
  • Female ovaries to increase oestrogen
  • Both sexes produce both hormones but to different levels 


Variations in Timing of Puberty 

Environmental factors


Largely genetically determined 

Environmental factors include:

• Nutrition
• Underweight delays puberty

• Obesity accelerates puberty


• Associated with extreme weight loss or malnutrition 


Non-Normative Puberty: Males 

Early maturing

Late maturing

Early maturing males

  • Have opportunities for leadership and higher social status with peers
  • Academic, emotional, and behavioural problems, but these might be short-lived

Late maturing males

  • Negative impact on esteem short-lived
  • Develop positive qualities (e.g., insight)
  • Less pressure to engage in risk behaviours 


Non-Normative Puberty: Females 

Early maturing

Late maturing

Early maturing females

  • Negative long- and short-term effects
  • Premature dating and sexual encounters
  • Vulnerable to STIs, eating disorders, smoking and drinking, depression, anxiety, poor academic achievement
  • Related to family environment

Late maturing females

  • Lower peer status, but generally more positive outcomes 


Adolescent Obesity 

• 25% Australian adolescents are overweight or obese

• Rate of obesity doubled between 1985 and 1995

Associated health risks:

    • High blood pressure, respiratory disease, orthopaedic disorders, diabetes

• Psychosocial consequences

• Causes complex

• Combination of genetics and environment 


Body Image

• How one believes one looks

• Concern most intense during adolescence

• Pattern is more intense with females

    • Normal increase in girls’ body fat 


Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa 

  • Involves self-starvation
    • Loss of 25-50% of original body weight
    • Less than 85% normal weight for age
  • Found across cultures and over time
  • Distorted body image – belief they are fat
  • Constant dieting and exercising
  • May cause irregularity/cessation of menstruation
  • Often good students and “perfectionists”
  • Family dynamics: very involved mothers, emotionally absent fathers 


Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa 

• Bingeing and undoing of caloric intake on regular basis

“Undo” calories by:
• Self-induced vomiting

• Excessive exercise
• Laxatives or enemas

• Diuretics
• Dieting

Linked with depression and low self-esteem 


Treatment of Anorexia and Bulimia 

• Immediate goal is to get patient to eat and gain weight

• Patients may be hospitalised if severely malnourished

Behaviour therapy – reward eating
Cognitive therapy – change body image

• Institutional settings and family therapy 


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) 

  • Syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital lice, scabies, chlamydia, herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS
  • May result in infertility, life-threatening complications
  • Abstinence the only complete prevention, but practicing ‘safer sex’ may be more achievable 


Australian Statistics STIs

ABS (2008) for the whole population:

• STIs the most commonly reported communicable diseases, accounting for 43% of all notifications, followed by vaccine preventable diseases (21%), and gastrointestinal diseases (17%)

• Chlamydia was the most common STI (58,515 notifications, 84% of total STIs)

• The average number of new HIV cases from 2004 – 2008 was 984 per year 


Drug Use and Abuse 

Substance abuse


  • Experimentation
    • Substance use
  • Habitual use
    • Substance abuse
      • Harmful use of alcohol or other drugs
    • Addiction
      • Can be psychological or physiological
      • Especially dangerous for adolescents because of changing brain structures
    • Tolerance
    • Short- and long-term health threats 


Alcohol Use and Abuse 

• Significant proportion engage in regular use of alcohol

• Binge drinking: consecutive consumption of 5- 7+ drinks in less than 2hrs

• Associated with accidental death and injury, interpersonal violence, suicide

• Health and social problems 



Primary and secondary prevention

• Nicotine highly addictive
• As few as 10 cigarettes can establish psychological and physical dependency

• Primary prevention

    • Advertising, tax impost, bans

• Secondary prevention
    • Life-skills and decision-making training

    • ‘Immunisation’ against substance abuse 


Piaget Formal Operational

Hypothetico-deductive reasoning

Propositional reasoning

• Move from concrete to formal operational thought

• Hypothetico-deductive reasoning

    • Systematic, scientific approach

• Propositional reasoning
    • Making logical inferences
    • May apply to premises that are not factually true

    • Understand validity of logic 


Individual Differences in Formal Operational Thinking 

  • Piaget assumed horizontal décalage – formal operations found in some domains but not others
  • Achievement of formal operations overestimated
    • Only half achieve full operational thought, some never achieve it
    • Influenced by sociocultural context
  • Post-formal thinking – formal operations used as a problem solving tool for ambiguous problems 


Impact of Formal Operations 

  • Become more critical of adult authority and can argue more skillfully
  • Better able to understand philosophical and abstract topics at school
  • May become more judgemental about perceived short-comings of social systems
  • May try to apply logic to bigger, more complex problems such as world peace – may appear naive 


Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral Reasoning 

  • preconventional
  • conventional
  • postconventional

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Concerns About Kohlberg’s Theory 

• Scoring procedures not sufficiently objective or consistent

• Content of dilemmas too narrow

• Dilemmas not aligned with real-life

• No distinction between moral knowledge and social conventions

• Gender and culture bias 


Gilligan’s Ethics of Care Model 

female moral reasoning

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Morality in Adolescence 

• Kohlberg claimed moral reasoning a good predictor of moral behaviour

    • The correlation is fairly modest though
• May be a gap between reasoning and actual behaviour

• The development of moral self-relevance may be important

• Integration of morality into self-concept may have impact on behaviour 


Adolescence and Identity Formation 

• Traditionally a time of turbulence, now a period of transition

Three stages:
• Early (11-13yrs)
• Middle (14-16yrs)

• Late (17-18yrs)

• Identity issues are central – questions of identity arising from cognitive and hormonal changes; awakening sexual interest; normative societal expectations; vocational expectations 


Erikson: Identity Formation 

• THE major task of adolescence

• Successful identity formation necessary for future development of friendships and intimate relationships

• Struggle to become an adult with unique sense of self and role in society

Individuals must achieve balance – identity an ongoing life project 


Process of Identity Formation 

• Content of identity contains multiple aspects

• Identity achieved through exploration and experimentation with various domains

• Identity evaluation important within the process of experimentation

• Psychological moratorium
   • May take “developmental time out”, e.g., a gap year 


Resolving Erikson’s Identity Crisis 

Successful resolution leads to the virtue of “fidelity”:

• Feelings of belonginess to friends or family

• Identification with a set of values
• Sustained loyalty and faith
• Able to trust oneself

The danger is identity confusion
• Some degree of confusion is normal 


Marcia: Identity Status Model 

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Factors Affecting Identity Formation 

• Gender: studies have mixed findings; gender role may be more important than gender per se

• Peers: increasing importance of influence during adolescence

• Parents: identity diffusion associated with lack of parental support, warmth, and open communication

• Personality: bidirectional relationship
• Societal and cultural factors: ethnic identity 


Development of Self 

Personal fabel

Imaginary audience

• Self-concept becomes more complex and abstract reflecting formal operational thought

• Increased skills in perspective taking

     • Adolescent egocentrism

     • Personal fable (i.e., belief adolescent’s life embodies special story that is heroic/unique; no-one else understands them)

     • Imaginary audience (i.e., adolescent egocentrism - group of followers exist who constantly watch and judge their every move)

• Recognise inconsistencies of self
    • Interpreted as differences between ‘true’ and ‘false’ selves 



• Global self-esteem
    • Overall view and evaluation of self

• Decreases in adolescence associated with

    • Transitions, stresses and challenges of adolescence and school
    • More realistic self-appraisals

• Authoritative parenting enhances self- esteem; authoritarian parenting reduces it 


Gender Differences in Self-Esteem 

• Girls’ self-esteem declines twice as much as boys’ during adolescence

     • May be associated with girls’ greater concern for body image

• Sex-role effects may also be important
• Girls more vulnerable to negative aspects of opposite-sex friendships

• Romantic relationships more likely to enhance boys’ self-esteem 


Family Relationships during Adolescence 



• Adolescent parent-child relationships

   • Based on those established in childhood

   • Become more egalitarian

• Adolescents increase self-regulation; seek control, choice, and autonomy

• Parenting styles, gender and culture

   • Behavioural vs. psychological control
   • Parental monitoring 


Parent-Child Conflict 

  • Conflict may arise from:
    • Discrepancies between expectations of responsibilities and freedoms
    • Views on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
    • Everyday issues
  • Conflict more common in early adolescence than later
  • Less than 10% of families experience significant intergenerational conflict 


Reasons for Intergenerational Conflict 

• A lack of understanding of the viewpoint and challenges of a different age group

• A lack of respect for a different age group

• Intolerance by parents of adolescents’ behaviour

• Resentment of parents’ power and restrictions by adolescents 


Adolescent Friendships 

• Based on mutuality and intimacy and appreciate each other’s uniqueness

• Complementarity is important – different strengths provide mutual benefit

• Benefits of adolescent friendships:

    • Source of social and emotional support

    • Help to promote autonomy
    • Help in defining a sense of self 


Romantic Relationships 

• Dating considered to be recreational, fun, separate from ‘courting’ function

• Follow a dating script, based on gender roles

• Early relationships less enduring and more superficial

• Cultural differences relate to age for dating

• Relationships for homosexual adolescents more difficult 


Sexual Behaviour 

• Average age at first intercourse – 16 years

    • Age is decreasing

• Concern about HIV/AIDS
• Transition to coitus depends on motivation, social

controls, attractiveness (Udry & Billy, 1987)

• Access to contraception changed attitudes

    • Permissiveness with affection

• Double standard

    • Premarital sex permitted for males, but not for females
• Cultural differences in attitudes to sexual behaviour 


Sexual Orientation 

• Sexual orientation
   • Continuum from exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual
   • Some identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual

• Individuals identify their minority sexual orientation

   • Self-labelling

   • Disclosure 


Difficulties for Non-Heterosexual Adolescents 

Factors determining sexual orientation

  • Achieving personal identity more difficult
  • May experience rejection from family, school, religious groups
    • Feel isolated in a hostile environment
  • Risk depression and suicide
    • No association between homosexual orientation and emotional or social problems
    • ...apart from those caused by societal treatment of homosexuals
  • Factors determining sexual orientation
    • Biological and genetic predisposition
    • Possible role of prenatal hormone – no definitive evidence 


Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenthood 

• Adolescent pregnancy:
    • Australian rate – 17 per 1000

    • Options: keep baby, terminate, adopt

• Reaction depends on:

   • Self-esteem, feelings about school
   • Relationship with baby’s father
   • Relationship with and support from parents

   • Peers who are parents 


Consequences and Risks of Teenage Pregnancy

  • More prenatal and birth complications:
    • Prematurity and low birth-weight
    • Fetal, neonatal or infant death
  • Possible negative outcomes for children of teen mothers:
    • Health and academic problems
    • Abuse and neglect
    • Developmental disabilities
  • Teen mothers less likely to:
    • Complete education, have stable well-paying job, enter secure marriage, achieve above average income
  • Teen fathers less negatively affected
    • Have early contact with baby, but declines over time