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Sexual Development and Maturation of the Adolescent

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  • 0:05 Adolescent Sexual Development
  • 0:41 Puberty
  • 2:04 Physical Changes
  • 4:55 Social and Emotional Changes
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

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.

Puberty

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.

Physical Changes

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.

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