Creating a profile of a developmental stage of the

lifespan- adolescentCreating a profile of a developmental stage of the lifespan
In this essay, I am going to discuss the developmental stage of the adolescent aged from 12 to 20 years old from the physical development like puberty and sexual maturity, the social development like peer pressure, popularity and rejection in school and the issues surrounding them like juvenile delinquency and gangs, eating disorders like obesity, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. I will also be touching on the causes of these issues.


Physical Development during adolescence
Between the ages of 12 to 20 is considered the most life changing, awkward and exciting stage of a human beings life as they will go through the physical changes which might cause them to have some embarrassing moments.


Physical and sexual maturation are processes set in motion by the genes and executed by hormones. Most males and females feel most awkward during this stage as it is during this time that physical attraction between the two sexes will develop and they become more conscious of their own appearance.


Adolescents experienced the most dramatic physical changes during this stage as their body undergoes a range of transformation from child to adult. What they are experiencing is called puberty, the process of biological change that results in an individuals attaining sexual maturity and becoming capable of producing a child. (Sigelman and Rider, 2006, p.130)
As the level of growth hormones circulating in the body increases, the adolescent growth spurt is triggered. Girls peak growth for height is around 12 years while for boys it is 13.4 years. Both sexes will return to a slower rate of growth after experiencing that peak of growth spurt. Both sexes develop muscles rapidly but boys usually gain a greater proportion of muscle mass than girls. Girls will gain extra fats in the breasts, hips and buttocks while boys will develop broader shoulders.


The sexual maturity part will follow, whereby it refers to the ability for a male to father a child and a female to carry a fetus to term. The primary sex characteristics like the testes and penis in males will develop around the age of 11 and a half years old while the ovaries, uterus and vagina in females will develop around 12 and a half years old. Secondary sex characteristics like breasts development for girls and changes in voices for boys plus the development of body hair for both sexes will also follow.
Social relationship during adolescence
During early adolescence, friends or peer group becomes the focal point of social relationships for youths. (Kail and Cavanaugh, 2000, p. 256) They usually start with a clique which are basically a small group consisting of 3 to 6 children of the similar age, sex, race and attitudes who are friends. Friends within the clique will spend time together talking, gossiping about mutual friends or school mates. They tend to dress alike, act alike and talk alike too.
At the age of 13, which is the age that most adolescents goes from Primary school to Secondary school, they will have to face a transitional change of changing schools and meeting or making new friends as the former classmates or school mates which they knew since primary school might not be going to the same secondary school. In a new environment, an adolescent will have to learn to adapt quickly and make new friends all over again. It can be quite stressful for them at first but normally, they will be able to adapt and get settle in fairly fast. It is also around this time from the age of 13 to 17 in secondary school that they will make friends who might last throughout their life.
To a teenager, friends matter a lot to them as friends provides assurance, understanding, moral support, advice and immediate acceptance which help to ease the uncertainty and insecurities that they face during the adolescent years. Being able to share inner feelings of happiness or disappointment will enables the adolescent to deal with their emotional ups and downs better.


In a peer group, they usually establish norms which are the standard behavior that applies to all the members within the group. (Kail et al, 2000, p. 257) Groups will pressure members to conform to these norms. This irresistible and harmful force is called peer pressure. This kind of peer pressure might be positive or negative. It is positive if peers are urged to do community services or participate in school activities together. It is considered negative if peers were to ask each other to try stealing from stores or fight with other groups of adolescences. To conform to peer pressure in early adolescence can be very disruptive and they might be judged by their teachers or treated as an outcast.


In every school, there are bound to be popular and unpopular teenagers.
According to research, social skill is the most important factor which determines a persons popularity. Popular teenagers are found to be usually better at initiating conversations with other people and they are also better at integrating themselves into an ongoing conversation or play session. Unpopular or rejected teenagers tend to be socially unskilled, timid, withdrawn, disruptive or aggressive. For those rejected teenagers, being rejected repeatedly might cause them to drop out of schools, join gangs or suffer from psychopathology.
Peer rejection can be traced in part to the influences of parents, according to Banduras social cognitive theory. (Seifert, Hoffnung and Hoffnung, 2000, p. 260) As a kid, teenagers will observe their parents response to social situations and they will imitate these responses later in life. Thus if their parents typical response to interpersonal relationship is with aggression or intimidation, they will imitate them and this will hamper the development of their social skills in the long run. The consequences of the lack of social skills will be their classmates or school mates shunning them. Academically, their grades will also suffer and they are seen as a failure in school. Such adolescents normally have a higher risk of going into depression or become a juvenile delinquent to feel accepted.


Right now I will go into the issues surrounding adolescents like juvenile delinquency and gangs, eating disorders like obesity, anorexia nervosa and bulimia.


Juvenile delinquency and gangs
Juvenile delinquency refers to a pattern of destructive or antisocial activities and lawbreaking offences committed by adolescents. (Seifert et al, 2000, p. 411) Many juvenile delinquent youngsters belong to gangs and their age are usually from 12 to 20 years old. They normally commit petty offences like shop theft, playing truant, fighting among different gangs and running away from home.


In a gang, there is usually a gang leader and clear role expectations for its other members. Traditionally gang members are usually adolescent males but in recent years, there has been increased female involvement. The recent case of a video being circulated online showing four girls beating another girl in a staircase landing are examples of girl gangs in Singapore.
Being in a gang provide social supports for those alienated youths who faced insecurity, uncertainty and they also provide alternative forms of economic opportunities. This kind of gangs offers a form of identity, belonging, status and power and most importantly, protection from all those people who used to shun them in the past.
In Singapore as youth arrests accounted for 19 per cent of total persons arrested, thus in order to reduce and prevent delinquency, a curfew has been set at 11pm starting from this year. If teenagers were spotted unnecessarily exposing themselves to crime risk or bad influence by loitering in crime-prone areas such as quiet, secluded spots late at night, a warning letter will be sent to their parents informing them of their childs whereabouts on that night. Whether this form of enforcement on the part of the police will provide any long term effects will remains to be seen as it is still too early to judge.


Eating Disorders- Obesity
In Singapore as the standard of living goes up, people have better spending power. Parents nowadays give their children more money to spend as both parents are likely to be working. There is a lack of control when it comes to what their children are eating as they are not around to control or advice on their calories intake, thus their children become obese.
When parents are around, they usually encourage their children to finish off all the food on their plates even though the children are already full is in fact encouraging them to ignore internal cues to eating. Obese adolescents may overeat as they rely on such external cues and disregarding internal cues to stop.


Another reason could also be environmental. Print advertisements and TV commercials encourages people to eat tasty but fattening food. For example, Macdonalds are even introducing 24 hours home delivery and staying open 24 hours for certain outlets. Thus it is no surprise to find that an increasing number of children and adolescents are becoming overweight as they can always order food from fast food restaurants.
Heredity may play a part in juvenile obesity too. Genes may influence obesity by helping to determine a persons activity level. (Kail et al, 2000, p. 281) Some adolescents are genetically more prone to being inactive thus that makes it more difficult for them to burn off calories and it is easier for them to gain weight.
Psychological factors such as boredom, sadness or anger might influence eating habits too. Some adolescents overindulge in eating and food as a way of dealing with stress, pressures from school or depression.


Obese children are often unpopular and have low self esteem. They often dislike physical games during physical education classes, subject to name callings by their peers, have very few friends and are at risk for many health problems like high blood pressure and diabetics.
Schools in Singapore try to deal with obesity in children by having the TAF (Trim and Fit) club program in Primary and Secondary schools. Its aims are to educate students on the need to lead a physically active and healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and regular exercise. The obese children and adolescents are asked to come back to school for an hour once a week and they are usually engaged in some games and physical exercise during that hour. This is a compulsory program to help them lose weigh through exercising.
By having a healthy weight and eating habit, adolescents will start to have higher self esteem, less chances of suffering from depression, have more friends and have a better outlook at life.


Eating disorders- Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is a psychological and emotional disorder characterized by severely abnormal eating patterns, an obsession with food and weight plus a relentless pursuit of excessive thinness. (Seifert et al, 2000, p. 353)
Currently as Singapore is growing in terms of our economy and industrializations, we are fast becoming westernized in many aspects. With the adolescents being exposed to western cultures like equating beauty with thinness, more adolescents are pursuing thinness relentlessly. In many of our local magazines and TV advertisements, slimming commercials are everywhere and many beautiful and slim celebrities are endorsing these advertisements since the last decade or so. Their before and after pictures are shown side by side in those ads and teenagers begin to have the idea that being slim or thin is the in thing now.


The typical Singaporean patient suffering from anorexia nervosa is a single, female, teenage student. However according to studies, 53% of females and 28% of males wanted to be thinner. The average age of adolescents suffering from anorexia nervosa is around 15.5 although it seems that some teenagers are having this disorder at around 12 years of age. The reason could be that this period of time happens to be the transitional period when they graduated from primary school to secondary school and coupled with the physical and emotional changes as they go through puberty, it makes them more vulnerable to anorexia nervosa.
Anorexic adolescents experience severe disturbances in 3 areas of psychological functioning. The first is their body image. Although they might be looking like a skeleton already but they still see someone who is too fat and needs to continue dieting.
The second disturbance is misinterpretation of internal and external stimuli. It means that although an adolescent is literally starving to death but they enjoy the feeling of hunger and their thin bodies, both of which make them feel thinner. The third disturbance would be a pervasive sense of ineffectiveness and helplessness about their ability to direct their life.
This disorder is accompanied by psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder as the victim magnifies a slight flaw to such a degree that all other aspects of personality and appearance are ignored. (Kagan and Gall, 1998, p.107) In this case, depression is being viewed as being secondary to the dieting and the state of starvation rather than a separated entity.


Usually patients with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are usually referred to the Child Guidance Clinic (CGC) or the Eating Disorder Clinic (EDC) which was established at the Institute of Mental Health in 1994. CGC usually see patients who are under 18 while EDC attends to cases 18 years old and above.
Eating disorder- Bulimia
Bulimia is a related eating disorder that frequently involves a recurrent binge-purge syndrome in which food are eaten and then immediately purged by forced vomiting, laxatives and other cathartics. (Seifert et al, 2000, p. 353)
Almost half of anorexics have bulimia eating patterns too. People at greatest risk for bulimia are those who have deeply accepted or identify with the social and cultural norms that equate fat with the ugly and thinness with the beautiful.


Anorexia and bulimia are also frequently associated with serious family problem such as a mother-daughter relationship that is overprotective, rigid, rejecting or hostile. Most likely the mothers in this case are preoccupied with being thin and have some disturbed eating patterns. There is also evidence that sexual abuse may be involved in some cases.
To treat anorexia and bulimia successfully, there are a few steps to follow. Firstly, the eating disorder must be deal with in a way that addresses both the patients need for control and the distortions in their thinking. In this case, a highly restricted hospital environment is needed which will allows careful observation and also to reinforce more appropriate eating behaviors. Antidepressant medications are helpful in reducing depression and risk of suicide that are present in many such cases.


Secondly, the treatment must address the underlying family problems and abnormal interactions among family members that are invariably related to the eating disorder.
Finally, individual counseling or therapy sessions for the patient must be held to help her uncover her own abilities and resources for independent thinking, judging and feelings. It must help her to achieve autonomy and self directed identity by helping her to become aware of, express and act on her own impulses, feelings and needs.


Summary
During those awkward adolescent years, teenagers are more likely to commit crimes, join gangs, be stressed out or sink into depression, thus it will be good for parents to be more supportive morally and emotionally and care for their children during that time. Some of them have eating disorders which might not be discovered until it is too late as they tend to be able to hide them well. The choices that teenagers make during that time could also greatly affect their future if they happen to make a wrong decision.
It will be good for teenagers to participate in healthy activities organized by their schools such as camps, community services, field trips and maybe some competitions. This way they can make more friends, be active socially, gain knowledge and grow up in a healthier environment.
References
Kagan, J, & Gall, S (1998). The Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood & Adolescence.United States of America: Gale Research.


Kail, V, & Cavanaugh, C (2000). Human Development: A Lifespan View. Wadsworth.


Seifert, L, Hoffnung, J, & Hoffnung, M (2000). Lifespan Development. Houghton Mifflin Company.


Sigelman, K, & Rider, A (2006). Life-span Human Development. Thomas Wadsworth.
Yap, S. (2006, January 2). Youth arrests climb to highest in 5 years. The Straits Times, Home, p. 2.

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