In this lesson, explore the changes that take place during puberty. You will meet Dick and Jane as they experience these changes, and you will be able to test your knowledge with a quiz at the end.
Adolescent Sexual Development
'The talk.' 'The birds and the bees.' Those dreaded human growth and development films you were forced to watch in fifth-grade health class. Whatever you think of when adolescent sexual development comes to mind, chances are you cringe at the memories. For most of us, this was an awkward time in our life.
These changes may be uncomfortable topics to discuss, but they're an inevitable part of growing up. Adolescent sexual development occurs during puberty and includes many physical, emotional, and social changes.
Before we discuss these changes, let's first define exactly what puberty is. Puberty refers to the transformations that occur as a child undergoes physical developmental changes, resulting in the sexually mature body of an adult.
Meet Dick and Jane. They are about to begin the physical journey towards adulthood, but what triggers this process? The biological processes of puberty begin when the brain's hypothalamus and the pituitary gland get together to release gonadotrophins. Gonadotrophins are special hormones that activate the sexual glands. These sexual glands are the testes in boys and the ovaries in girls.
Once these sexual glands are activated, they begin to release their own hormones that result in physical changes throughout the body. The hormones released by the male testes are called androgens, and the hormones released by the female ovaries are called estrogens.
Developmentally normal girls may experience puberty at any time between the ages of 8 to 15. For developmentally normal boys, puberty may occur at any time between the ages of 9 to 17. Variations in puberty-related changes are normal. Each child is unique, and they will experience these changes at different ages and at different rates.
Two types of physical changes occur during puberty: changes to the primary sex characteristics and changes to secondary sex characteristics. Primary sex characteristics refer to the sexual organs. Primary sex characteristic changes in boys involve an increase in the size of the prostate gland, testes, seminal vesicles, and penis. The most noticeable change that occurs for young men is their first ejaculation, which often occurs during sleep. They may also experience spontaneous erections.
Primary sex characteristic changes in girls involve the uterus and vagina. The uterus begins to build a lining, and the vagina starts to produce discharge. The most noticeable change that occurs for young women is their first menstrual period. This occurs when the uterus sheds its first lining of tissue and blood. In adult women, this lining is shed about every 28 days.
Secondary sex characteristics refer to other visible changes that mark adult maturation. These include body hair growth, body odor, and a sudden increase in height. Also, changes to body shape or voice may occur. Dick and Jane are about to experience these changes. The first noticeable change to their appearance will be a quick growth spurt. This sudden increase in height may cause them to feel awkward and uncoordinated as they are adapting to their new bodies, but in reality, they're increasing in strength and coordination at this time as well.
Next, Dick and Jane will experience an increase in body hair. Boys will begin to develop facial hair. They will both begin to develop pubic hair and underarm hair. Body odor also begins to increase for Dick and Jane. As they begin to show an interest in new grooming habits, shaving and applying deodorant will become a new part of their routine.
At this time, girls will also experience a significant change in their bodies' shape. Their hips will widen, and their breasts will begin to develop. Meanwhile, boys will experience changes to their voice. Their voice begins to deepen as their voice box, or larynx, grows larger. During this time, their voices may 'crack' while they are talking.
Changes to primary and secondary sex characteristics can be strange and embarrassing to both boys and girls when they begin. Because of this, it's important that they have enough information to understand the changes that their bodies are going through. This is why each of us had to have the uncomfortable experiences of our parents giving us 'the talk,' or watching those films in health class. Imagine how uncomfortable these changes could be if you didn't know that they were coming.
Social and Emotional Changes
The physical changes of puberty can cause some social and emotional changes for Dick and Jane as well. Remember the release of gonadotrophins, androgens, and estrogens we mentioned earlier? These are the so-called 'raging hormones' experienced during puberty. Dick and Jane's bodies are adjusting to these fluctuating hormone levels. Mood swings can occur while their bodies are getting used to these new chemical reactions, and emotions may alternate from sad to irritable to happy to angry for little or no apparent reason.
The physical and emotional changes that are faced during puberty also result in new and unfamiliar social experiences for Dick and Jane. For example, they may start to be treated differently as their body changes are noticed by others, or they may start to notice that others are paying more attention to how they look. They may also begin to show romantic interest in others. Learning how to navigate these new social situations can be confusing.
The changes of puberty are an inevitable part of growing up. Puberty refers to the transformations that occur as a child undergoes physical developmental changes, resulting in the sexually mature body of an adult. Adolescent sexual development occurs during puberty and includes many physical, emotional, and social changes. Developmentally normal girls may experience puberty at any time between the ages of 8 to 15. For developmentally normal boys, puberty may occur at any time between the ages of 9 to 17.
Two types of physical changes occur during puberty. These are changes to primary sex characteristics, or the sexual organs. There are also changes to secondary sex characteristics, or the visual changes that mark adult maturation. The physical changes of puberty can cause social and emotional changes as well.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define adolescent sexual development and puberty
- Explain the two types of physical changes, and how they affect boys and girls differently