Physical Growth in Adolescence

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  • 0:01 Adolescence & Puberty
  • 1:12 Growth Spurt
  • 2:39 Gender Differences
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Adolescents go through many physical changes. Watch this lesson to find out some of the physical developments that happen during adolescence, including those related to puberty, growth spurts and gender differences in growth.

Adolescence and Puberty

Larry is at an awkward time in his life. He's 15 and has begun noticing some serious changes. He suddenly has problems with pimples, and he has hair growing in odd places. His voice sometimes cracks, and he's grown several inches in the last year alone!

Larry's not alone. His twin sister Linda is also going through changes. She, too, has pimples, and her body is growing softer and fuller in certain areas.

Larry and Linda are in adolescence, which is the transitional time between childhood and adulthood. Generally, adolescence is defined as between ages 13 and 20. During adolescence, children go through puberty, which is a period of about four years of physical development that ends when a person is able to reproduce. Notice that adolescence encompasses many different changes: physical, emotional, intellectual and social. But puberty is just the physical changes.

Let's look closer at some of the physical developments in adolescence and puberty, including growth spurts and gender differences in development at this stage of life.

Growth Spurt

Remember how Larry has grown several inches in the past year? Linda, too, is growing taller. It seems like they are both getting bigger every single day!

Puberty is triggered by hormones. Among other things that hormones do, they cause people to get physically bigger. A growth spurt is a rapid increase in skeletal size. These sometimes seem to happen overnight, as adolescents get taller very quickly.

Larry and Linda have experienced growth spurts in the past year. They've both grown several inches and sometimes all at once. For example, Larry grew two inches taller over the last summer vacation from school.

There are many factors that can influence growth spurts. Genetics play a role, as do environmental factors. Nutrition, health care and socioeconomic status have all been linked to growth spurts. Children who are malnourished, for example, may not experience dramatic growth spurts the same way that those who have access to a well-balanced diet do.

Growth spurts and other changes in puberty can lead to body image issues. For example, after her most recent growth spurt, Linda is taller than every boy in her class. She feels embarrassed by this, and wishes she was petite like some of her friends. She's even started slumping down when she walks so that she doesn't look as tall as she is.

Gender Differences

Though Larry and Linda are both going through adolescence, puberty struck them at different times. Linda has been having issues with acne and has been growing and developing physically for a couple of years now. For her, the physical changes of puberty started at around age 12.

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