Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Upton I 112
Adolescence/Developmental psychology/Upton: current evidence suggests that ‘storm and stress’ does not describe the typical experience of an adolescent. Puberty is a period of rapid physical change, involving hormonal and bodily changes. However, it is not a single sudden event, but rather an extended set of changes that take place over time (Dorn et al., 2006)(1).
These changes include increases in height and weight, and reaching sexual maturity. The specific changes are different for boys and girls, as are the timings at which such changes occur. In general, girls enter puberty approximately two years before boys. Initial changes are associated with increased height and weight. On average, for girls this growth spurt begins at the age of nine years, while for boys this is closer to 11 years of age. The peak of this growth spurt happens approximately three years later, so girls are growing fastest between 12 and 13 years of age, while boys are growing fastest between the ages of 14 and 15 years. During the growth peak, girls grow by around 9cm a year and boys by 10cm.
Upton I 113
The adolescent growth spurt starts on the outside of the body and works inwards, so the hands and feet are the first to expand, followed by arms and legs, which then grow longer.
Following this the spine elongates. The last expansion is a broadening of the chest and shoulders in boys, and a widening of the hips and pelvis in girls.
Hormonal changes: This growth spurt is triggered by a flood of hormonal changes, which is set off by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The main hormones associated with pubertal changes are testosterone and oestrodiol.
Both of these chemicals are present in the hormonal make-up of both boys and girls, but testosterone dominates in male pubertal changes and oestrodiol in female pubertal changes. In boys, increases in testosterone are associated with an increase in height, a deepening of the voice and genital development. For girls, increasing levels of oestrodiol are linked to breast, uterine and skeletal development (e.g. widening of the hips).
It has been suggested that these same hormones may contribute to psychological develop
ment in adolescence (Rapkin et al.. 2006)(2). For example, studies have shown links between testosterone levels and perceived social competence in boys (Nottelmann et al., 1987)(3), and between oestrodiol levels and the emotional responses of girls (Inoff-Germain et al., 1988)(4).
(…) there is evidence that the link between behaviour and hormones may work in the opposite direction as well, since behaviour and mood have been found to influence hormone levels (Susman. 2006)(5). Indeed, it seems unlikely that hormones alone can account for the psychological changes that occur in adolescence (Rowe et al.. 2004)(6).
In general, (…), it seems that all adolescents show some body dissatisfaction during puberty (Graber and Brooks Gunn, 2001)(7). The evidence suggests that girls tend to become increasingly dissatisfied as they move through puberty, while boys become increasingly satisfied. (McCabe et al. 2002)(8).
At 11 to 12 years of age, early-maturing girls tend to have greater satisfaction with their body shape than late-maturing girls. However, this changes as girls reach 15 to 16 years of age, when late-maturing girls start to
Upton I 114
Report greater satisfaction with their body shape (Simmons and Blyth, 1987)(9).
Early-maturing girls have also been found to be more vulnerable to emotional and be havioural problems, including depression, eating disorders and engaging in risky health be haviours such as smoking, drinking and drug taking, and early sexual behaviours (Wiesner and Ittel. 2002)(10).
These girls are also more likely to have lower educational and occupational attainments (Stattin and Magnusson, 1990)(11). It seems that girls who physically mature at a younger age spend more time with their older peers and are easily drawn into problem behaviours, because they do not have the emotional maturity to recognise the long-term effects of such behaviours on their development (Sarigiani and Petersen. 2000)(12).
However, there is evidence to suggest that the negative psychosocial consequences of early puberty may not last into later adolescence or adulthood (Blumstein Posner. 2006)(13). >Self-description/Developmental psychology.
Upton I 122
Cognitive skills/adolescence: There is also evidence that changing cognitive skills reflect ongoing structural and functional brain development. Structural MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) studies, for example, have demonstrated that the brain undergoes considerable development during adolescence, particularly in the prefrontal cortex (e.g. Huttenlocher et al.. 1983)(14).
It is thought that the production of synapses in the prefrontal cortex continues up until puberty, followed by synaptic pruning during adolescence. This is accompanied by an increase in myelination in this area of the cortex. These structural changes are believed to represent the fine-tuning of this brain circuitry, so increasing the efficiency of the cognitive systems it serves (Blakernore and Choudhury, 2006)(15). There is also some suggestion that functioning in the frontal cortex increases with age (e.g. Rubia et al.. 2000)(16), although this has been challenged by some researchers (e.g. Durston et al., 2006)(17).
Upton I 123
(…), the ability to engage in abstract reasoning (…) increases; adolescent thinking is no longer tied to specific concrete examples as it was during late childhood, meaning that they can engage in hypothetical deductive reasoning. >Egocentrism/Psychological theories, >Egocentrism/Elkind, >Self-Consciousness/Developmental psychology, >Risk perception/Developmental psychology, >Morality/Developmental psychology, >Egocentrism/Elkind, >Youth Culture/Developmental psychology, >Self/Developmental psychology, >Friendship/Developmental psychology, >Peer Relationship/Developmental psychology, >Self-Esteem/Developmental psychology, >Identity/Marcia.




1. Dorn. LD. Dahi, RE. Woodward, HR and Biro. F (2006) Defining the boundaries of early adolescence: a user’s guide to assessing pubertal status and pubertal timing in research with adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 10: 30-56.
2. Rapkin A, Tsao, JC, Turk, N Anderson, M and Zelter, LK (2006) Relationships among self -rated tanner staging, hormones, and psychosocial factors in healthy female adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology, 19: 181-7.
3. Nottelmann, ED, Susman, EJ, Blue,JH, Inoff-Germain, G and Dorn, LD (1987) Gonadal and adrenal hormone correlates of adjustment in early adolescence, in Lerner, RM and Foch, TT (eds) Biological-psychosocial Interactions in Early Adolescence. Hifisdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
4. Inoff-Germain, G, Chrousos, G, Arnold, G, Nottelmann, E, and Cutler, G (1988). Relations between hormone levels and observational measures of aggressive behavior of young adolescents in family interactions. Developmental Psychology, 24: 1 29-39.
5. Susman, EJ (2006) Puberty revisited: models, mechanisms and the future. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence, San Francisco.
6. Rowe, R, Maughan, B, Worthman, C, Costello, E and Angold, A (2004) Testosterone, antisocial behaviour, and social dominance in boys: pubertal development and biosocial interaction. Biological Psychiatry, 55: 546-52.
7. Graber, JA and Brooks-Gunn, J (2001) Body image, in Lerner, RM and Learner, JV (eds.) Adolescence in America. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
8. McCabe, MR Ricciardelli, LA and Finemore, ¡(2002) The role of puberty, media, and popularity with peers as strategies to increase weight, decrease weight and increase muscle tone among adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 52: 145-53.
9. Simmons, RG and Blyth, DA(1987)Moving into Adolescence: The impact of pubertal change and school context. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.
10. Wiesner, M and Ittel, A (2002) Relations of pubertal timing and depressive symptoms to substance use in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 22: 5-23.
11. Stattin, H and Magnusson, D (1990)Paths Through Life, Vol.2: Pubertal Maturation in Female Development. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
12. Sarigiani, AC and Petersen, PA (2000) Adolescence: puberty and biological maturation, in Kazdin, A (ed.) Encyclopedia of Psychology. Washington, DC, and New York: American Psychological Association/Oxford University Press.
13. Blumstein Posner, R (2006) Early menarche: a review of research on trends in timing, racial differences, etiology and psychosocial consequences. Sex Roles, 5 4(5-6): 315-22.
14. Huttenlocher. PR and Kubicek. L (1983) The source of relatedness effects on naming latency.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 9(3): 486-96.
15. Blakemore, ST and Choudhury. S (2006) Development of the adolescent brain: implications for executive function and social cognition. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47: 296-312.
16. Rubia, K, Overrnever, S, Taylor, E, Brammer, M, Williams, SC R, Simmons, A, Andrew, C and Bullmore, ET (2000) Functional frontalisation with age: mapping neurodevelopmental trajectories with fMRI. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24 (1): 13-19.
17. Durston, S, Davidson. MC, Tottenham, N, Galvan, A, Spicer, J, Fossella, JA and Casey, BJ (2006)
A shift from diffuse to focal cortical activity with development. Developmental Science, 9(1): 1-8.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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