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New Research on Adolescent Development and the Biology of Puberty
Pages 1-25

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From page 1...
... Biological processes drive many aspects of this growth and development, with the onset of puberty marking the passage from childhood to adolescence. Puberty is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, during which a growth spurt occurs, secondary sexual characteristics appear, fertility is achieved, and profound psychological changes take place.
From page 2...
... Research conducted with both humans and nonhuman primates suggests that adolescence is a time for carrying out crucial developmental tasks: becoming physically and sexually mature; acquiring skills needed to carry out adult roles; gaining increased autonomy from parents; and realigning social ties with members of both the same and the opposite gender. Studies of such commonalities underscore the critical importance of this part of the life course in establishing social skills.
From page 3...
... Housing, neighborhoods, schools, and the social opportunities that are linked to them are largely controlled by income; a family's income and employment status decide its access to health care services and strongly influence the quality of those services (National Research Council, 19931. Opportunities for advanced education and training and entry into the workforce are also closely linked to family income.
From page 4...
... changes, cognitive development and increasing analytic capability; emotional growth, a time of self-exploration and increasing independence, and active participation in a more complex social universe. For much of this century, scientists and scholars studying adolescence tended to assume that the changes associated with adolescence were almost entirely dictated by biological influences.
From page 5...
... Over the past 50 years, studies conducted in North America and Europe have documented that only about a quarter of the adolescent population is at high risk for, or more vulnerable to, a wide range of psychosocial problems (Carnegie Corporation of NewYork,19951. These adolescents are not believed to be at increased risk because of biological or hormonal changes associated with puberty, but rather from a complex interaction among biological, environmental, and social factors.
From page 6...
... The research conducted to date has predominately been descriptive in nature, relied on cross-sectional data, and been unidimensional in focus. Indeed, few research studies have successfully considered the multiple factors that collectively influence adolescent development.
From page 7...
... For example, a valuable new source of data that has the potential to significantly advance the knowledge base of physiological and behavioral development among adolescents is the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (called Add Health)
From page 8...
... At the workshop, Frank Biro presented data from the Growth and Health Study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This longitudinal study enrolled a cohort of over 2,000 girls, ages 9 to 10 years in 1987-1988; approximately half of the sample was white and half was black; the sample was recruited from clinics at three clinical centers located in Richmond, California, Cincinnati, Ohio, and metropolitan Washington, D.C.
From page 9...
... Research also shows that the family, the peer group, the neighborhood, the school, the workplace, and the broader society have all been shown to influence adolescent developmental outcomes, although it is less clear if these factors influence pubertal development. With respect to school settings, research suggests that the transition from small elementary schools to larger, more anonymous middle schools can be a stressful event in the lives of children (National Research Council, 19931.
From page 10...
... Black girls also begin pubertal development earlier than their white peers do by 15 months. Interestingly, even though they reach menarche earlier, tempo of the pubertal development is slower.
From page 11...
... These findings suggest the need for interventions that are targeted to early-maturing adolescents who may be at increased risk for a wide range of behavior problems and associated poor developmental outcomes. Physical maturation appears to have little correlation with cognitive development.
From page 12...
... In particular, functional imaging, if repeated over time, carries the potential for providing a better understanding of the functional connections between brain development and psychological performance (including cognitive development)
From page 13...
... Pregnancy in very young women may compromise their skeletal growth, preventing them from reaching maximum bone mass. Frank Biro noted that his research team, which followed several hundred adolescent pregnancies, found that, after giving birth, adolescent mothers were on average significantly heavier (by approximately 10 pounds)
From page 14...
... If, as discussed earlier, black girls begin puberty approximately 15 months before their white counterparts, but they arrive at menarche only 8 months earlier, what accounts for their slower tempo of pubertal development? What is the relationship between body weight and age of puberty for black and white
From page 15...
... How do genetic and cultural factors affect the timing of pubertal development and the timing of menarche? An anthropologist taking part in the workshop noted that, among the Lumi people of New Guinea, the average age of menarche is significantly later than it is in the United States and other developed countries.
From page 16...
... The field would benefit from a more complex model of adolescent cognitive development. Why does cognitive development proceed on a different timetable than physical and sexual maturation?
From page 17...
... The next generation of research studies needs to be interdisciplinary in nature; to integrate cross-sectional and longitudinal research methods with more sophisticated modeling techniques to examine the interrelationship among genetic, biological, social, and environmental influences and their unique and shared contribution to adolescent development; and to be couched within a broader developmental framework. POLICY CHALLENGES In discussing the state of research on puberty and adolescent development, workshop participants turned to issues related to policy and practice.
From page 18...
... In particular, parents, educators, health providers, and human service providers need to have a greater awareness that puberty begins earlier than most people imagine (especially for girls) , that early-maturing girls may be at higher risk for depression and problem behaviors, that many factors affect the timing and course of pubertal development, and that physical or sexual maturation is most likely on a different schedule than cognitive development.
From page 19...
... A shift in emphasis is needed from simply preventing problems to actively promoting a wide range of healthful behaviors. Policy makers and practitioners need the kind of information that will help them promote healthy development, including information about what is happening at various stages of adolescence; how hormonal changes interact with contextual factors and how they affect sexual arousal; and the risk factors affecting early, middle, and late maturers.
From page 20...
... For example, different cultures have different attitudes toward sexual precocity and sexual behavior, including early pregnancy and childrearing. Early puberty poses fewer problems for girls in cultures whose adult women tend to support early maturation; for example, there is limited research suggesting that black girls cope better with early maturation than their white peers.
From page 21...
... Specifically, participants discussed the need to construct policies and design programs that focus on both prevention and health promotion; that seek to promote positive developmental outcomes (not just the absence of problems) ; that engage adolescents as young adults (rather than talking down to them as if they were children)
From page 22...
... may go unrecognized or untreated until a later age. Clearly, health care providers, health care institutions, community-based organizations, and other social service agencies can play a very important role by educating parents that their children in the middle childhood, preadolescent, and adolescent years require access to health care and preventive services.
From page 23...
... A classic epidemiological study of the mental health status of adolescents conducted in Great Britain by Michael Rutter and his colleagues found that half reported sadness or "misery" on questionnaires, but less than 15 percent of boys or girls were found to be depressed that is, to have impaired functioning or true mood disturbance based on in-depth interviews (Rutter et al., 19761. Men psychological dfi;~culties do occur in Adolescence, they are not necessarily outgrown later.
From page 24...
... Genetic differences among individuals and groups are usually influenced by social and cultural contexts. For example, differences in the timing of puberty for black and white girls may relate only partially to genetic factors; nutrition, socioeconomic conditions, and other factors have been shown to influence pubertal development.
From page 25...
... In particular, research suggests, community context influences the developmental processes that can promote positive developmental outcomes among adolescents and discourage them from engaging in problem behaviors, such as substance abuse, precocious sexual activity, and delinquency (National Research Council, 1993, 1996; Petersen et al., 19911. CONCLUSION Other than infancy, no stage in human development results in such rapid or dramatic change than adolescence.


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