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Essay: Write a 1000-1250 word essay addressing each of the following questions. Be sure to completely answer all the questions. Separate each section in your paper with a clear heading that allows your professor to know which question you are addressing in that section of your paper. Support your ideas with at least three (3) citations in your essay. Make sure to reference the citations using the APA writing style for the essay. The cover page and reference page do not count towards the minimum word amount.

1. Summarize the impact of pubertal timing on adolescent development.

2. Compare risk factors for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. How do treatments and outcomes differ for the two disorders?

3. Describe research findings that challenge Piaget’s notion of a new, discrete stage of cognitive development at adolescence.

4. List personal and contextual factors that promote identity development.

5. How does an understanding of ideal reciprocity contribute to moral development?

6. Why are Kohlberg’s Stages 3 and 4 morally mature constructions?

7. Describe the distinct positive functions of friendships, cliques, and crowds in adolescence. What factors lead some friendships and peer-group ties to be harmful?

8. Why are adolescent girls at greater risk for depression and adolescent boys at greater risk for suicide?


The beginning of adolescence is marked by puberty: biological changes leading to physical and sexual maturity. Modern research has shown that adolescence is a product of biological, psychological, and social forces.

Genetically influenced hormonal processes regulate pubertal growth. On average, girls reach puberty two years earlier than boys. As the body enlarges, girls’ hips and boys’ shoulders broaden, girls add more fat, and boys add more muscle. Puberty is accompanied by steady improvement in gross-motor performance, but whereas girls’ gains are slow and gradual, leveling off by age 14, boys show a dramatic spurt in strength, speed, and endurance that continues through the teenage years.

Menarche, or first menstruation, occurs late in the girl’s sequence of pubertal events, following the rapid increase in body size. Among boys, spermarche (first ejaculation) occurs around age 13 1?2, as the sex organs and body enlarge and pubic and underarm hair appear. Heredity, nutrition, and overall health contribute to the timing of puberty. A secular trend toward earlier menarche has occurred in industrialized nations as physical well-being has increased. Brain development continues in adolescence, supporting cognitive advances as well as more intense reactions to stimuli.

Puberty is related to a rise in parent–child conflict, but this is usually mild. Parent–child distancing seems to be a modern substitute for the physical departure of young people in unindustrialized cultures and among nonhuman primates. Reactions to pubertal changes are influenced by prior knowledge, support from family members, and cultural attitudes toward puberty and sexuality. Besides higher hormone levels, negative life events and adult-structured situations are associated with adolescents’ negative moods. Early-maturing boys and late-maturing girls, whose appearance closely matches cultural standards of physical attractiveness, have a more positive body image and usually adjust well in adolescence. In contrast, early-maturing girls and late-maturing boys experience emotional and social difficulties.

The arrival of puberty is accompanied by new health issues related to the young person’s striving to meet physical and psychological needs. As the body grows, nutritional requirements increase; however, because of poor eating habits, many adolescents suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent pregnancy and parenthood, and substance abuse are some of the most serious health concerns of the teenage years.

During Piaget’s formal operational stage, young people develop the capacity for systematic, scientific thinking, arriving at new, more general logical rules through internal reflection. Piaget believed that adolescents become capable of hypothetico-deductive reasoning, in which they begin with a hypothesis, or prediction, from which they deduce logical inferences. Piaget used the term propositional thought to refer to adolescents’ ability to evaluate the logic of verbal statements without referring to real-world circumstances. Recent research indicates that adolescents are capable of a much deeper grasp of scientific principles than are school-age children. However, even well-educated adults have difficulty with formal operational reasoning, indicating that Piaget’s highest stage is affected by specific, school-learning opportunities. Information-processing theorists agree with the broad outlines of Piaget’s description of adolescent cognition. But they refer to a variety of specific mechanisms for cognitive change, with metacognition regarded as central to adolescent cognitive development. By coordinating theories with evidence, adolescents develop advanced scientific reasoning skills.

The development of formal operations leads to dramatic revisions in the way adolescents see themselves, others, and the world in general. Using their new cognitive powers, teenagers become more argumentative, idealistic, and critical. Although they show gains in self-regulation, adolescents often have difficulty making decisions in everyday life.

Boys and girls do not differ in general intelligence, but they do vary in specific mental abilities. Females have a slight advantage in verbal ability, while boys do better in mathematical reasoning. Although heredity is involved in these differences, the gender gap is also affected by environmental factors.

School transitions create adjustment problems for adolescents, especially girls. Teenagers who must cope with added stressors are at greatest risk for adjustment problems following school change. Enhanced support from parents, teachers, and peers eases the strain of school transition.

Adolescent achievement is the result of a long history of cumulative effects. Early on, positive educational environments, both family and school, lead to personal traits that support achievement. The more hours students devote to a part-time job, the poorer their school attendance, academic performance, and extracurricular participation. However, when work experiences are specially designed to meet educational and vocational goals, teenagers experience positive school and work attitudes and improved achievement. The dropout rate in the United States is particularly high among low-SES ethnic minority youths and is affected by family and school experiences.

Erikson was the first to recognize identity as the major personality achievement of adolescence and as a crucial step toward becoming a productive, happy adult. Young people who successfully resolve the psychological conflict of identity versus role confusion construct a solid self-definition based on self-chosen values and goals. During adolescence, cognitive changes transform the young person’s vision of the self into a more complex, well-organized, and consistent picture. For most young people, self-esteem rises over the teenage years and is influenced by family, school, and the larger social environment. Among older adolescents, personal and moral values become key themes.

Adolescents’ well-organized self-descriptions and differentiated sense of self-esteem provide the cognitive foundation for identity development. Researchers have derived four identity statuses that reflect adolescents’ progress toward developing a mature identity. Two of these—identity achievement and moratorium—are psychologically healthy routes to a mature self-definition. Adolescents who remain in one of the other statuses—identity foreclosure or identity diffusion—tend to have adjustment difficulties.

Lawrence Kohlberg, inspired by the research of Piaget, identified three levels of moral development, each with two stages. According to Kohlberg, moral development is a gradual process that occurs as the individual actively grapples with moral issues and achieves gains in perspective taking. Child-rearing practices, schooling, peer interaction, and culture all contribute to moral development. Maturity of moral reasoning is only modestly related to moral behavior. Moral action is also influenced by the individual’s empathy and guilt, temperament, and history of morally relevant experiences.

Biological, social, and cognitive factors all play a role in making early adolescence a period of gender intensification—increased gender stereotyping of attitudes and behavior, and movement toward a more traditional gender identity, especially for girls. Development at adolescence involves striving for autonomy—a sense of oneself as a separate, self-governing individual. Over the adolescent years, relationships with parents and siblings change as teenagers strive to establish a healthy balance between connection to and separation from the family. As adolescents spend more time with peers, intimacy and loyalty become central features of friendship. Adolescent peer groups tend to be organized into tightly knit groups called cliques, or into crowds—larger, more loosely organized groups. Although it rises in adolescence, most peer pressure is not in conflict with important adult values.

Although most young people move through adolescence with little difficulty, some encounter major disruptions, such as premature parenthood, substance abuse, and school failure. The most common psychological problem of the teenage years, depression, is influenced by a diverse combination of biological and environmental factors. The suicide rate increases dramatically at adolescence. Many teenagers become involved in some delinquent activity, but only a few are serious or repeat offenders. Family, school, peer, and neighborhood factors contribute to delinquency.


Berk, Laura E. (2018). Development through the lifespan, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson. ISBN: 9780134419909

  • Chapter 11: Physical and Cognitive Development in Adolescence
  • Chapter 12: Emotional and Social Development in Adolescence
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Goals Alignment

  • University Mission Goals-1, 2, 4
  • Course Goals- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


Module five focused on social/emotional as well as physical and cognitive development of the children in the adolescent ages.

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