I can’t believe it’s been close to two weeks since my last post. I’ve been very busy. Two weeks ago I volunteered at my high school’s Speech and Debate camp all while starting summer school at UCLA. I’m currently taking a class on adolescent psychology, so it was interesting seeing what I was learning, all those theories in action as I was helping to inspire young minds.
After taking four classes, I was amazed and surprised to be learning interesting things about a stage in life we all hate: puberty. It’s that stage of rapid physical and biological growth for boys and girls. But it’s also that stage where parents awkwardly talk about the birds and the bees, that is, if they are brave enough to embark on such a task. If not, I’m sure adolescents today learn from their peers, or online. And that’s when I found myself saying words that most grandfathers say when they are entertaining their grandchildren: “Back in my day.” God, I’m 23. I shouldn’t be starting any sentence with those words. Alas, I said it.
So what is it that I learned? Let’s just say I received more of a formal training of the talk my parents or school should have given me “back in my day.” Although I do have to say that my parents did give me “the talk,” but they didn’t necessarily give me all the scientific terms and mumbojumbo. But it’s life–we all have to go through this awkward stage whether you are going through it in America or Zimbabwe.
When we talk about puberty, we talk about hormones, or rather the increase of hormones. Males and females have different concentrations of hormones: androgens are primarily higher in males, whereas estrogens are primarily higher in female. These hormones help shape the male and female body. For example, the release of female sex hormones lead to ovum development in girls, while the release of male sex hormones leads to sperm production in boys. Hormones are responsible for growth spurts. They are also responsible for widening the hips of girls and broadening the shoulder of boys. Okay, we all know this. But the following is what I didn’t know.
Depending on how early or late puberty begins in adolescent girls and boys, one is treated differently by one’s peers depending on one’s gender. For girls who mature early on, they tend to have a greater degree of social problems. They can no longer relate as much to their less developed friends, especially because they start receiving attention from older boys, whether it is welcomed or not. This early attention allows them to experiment sexually and often, they have more sexual partners than girls who are late bloomers. Thus, girls who start puberty earlier are prone to pregnancy, are at a higher risk of depression, as well as drug and alcohol use. Surprisingly, these negative repercussions for maturing early isn’t shared in boys. Boys who mature early tend to be most popular amongst their peers, and are especially popular amongst girls. They tend to have higher self-esteem, even higher than early maturing girls. Also, they often display actions of masculinity, such as displaying their strength. God knows I’ve seen that before–heck, that’s how it still is in the fraternity world. For “late bloomers,” the positive and negative repercussions are flipped. Thus, girls who mature later tend to do better in their classes, and have higher self-esteem than girls who mature early. For late blooming boys, on the other hand, they are often picked on by their more developed peers and are seen as “weak” or less manly because they aren’t physically strong. Although early maturing boys have a positive self image during adolescence, late maturing boys have a higher self image during middle age, perhaps because they place a higher focus on achievement rather than physical attributes.
I think I was either an early bloomer or a middle bloomer, if there is such a thing. Anyway, the world of psychology grows more and more interesting. I think every parent should take a class on this. Perhaps it will help with talking with their children. I don’t think our society encourages parents to talk to their children anymore. Whether it is parents who are constantly working and not developing relationships with their kids, or kids who get distracted because they would rather play video games, watch TV, or go online, there are a lot of distractions delaying and even preventing great familial relationships.
Photo Credit: Knifed.net