According to Hauser-Cram, et al. (2014), hormones have a major impact in the role of adolescent development. In females these hormones are the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the follicle -stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH in conjunction with the luteinizing hormone (LH) allow for the production of progesterone and estrogen, the females sexual hormones. They are faced with many difficult physical changes during this time. Female primary sexual characteristics have already become established. Most females have begun menarche and menstrual cycles become increasingly more regular. Her sexual desires and fantasies increase, and pregnancy becomes possible. Ovulation has been established but monthly release of an ovum is still irregular for most of this stage.During this stage of development females are just starting to finalize their adolescent growth spurt. Growth in height begins to slow down but continues until they reach their average adult height, most often around age 16. The growth may still be causing a lack of coordination and clumsiness however the peak development of her cerebellum is soon to be reached which will increase her control over voluntary muscle movements. This will allow them to have increased control over her balance and increase her equilibrium. She notices her female form changing from weight gain in the hips that widen, and fat deposits becoming increasingly more noticeable in the stomach, waist and thighs. The development of secondary sexual characteristics in the form of increased sweating, oily skin and acne may become more problematic. Their breast development continues, and underarm and pubic hair grows faster and begins to darken and thicken.
The female’s nutritional requirements change, and she may appear as if she is always hungry. The average caloric intake should range between 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day if she is active. Her appetite becomes larger due in part as the need for sleep increases. During this time, they may begin to struggle with their perceived body type which could possibly lead to eating disorders and body image issues. According to Dave & Rashad (2009), being considered overweight or obese in comparison to their peers with an average body-type can have negative effects on an individual’s sense of worth and belonging leading to an increased risk for depression.
Sleep is a critical element during adolescent development and how well they sleep can severely influence how they think, feel and behave and during the day. They will require an average of 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep per night but due to environmental and social factors including early class times, extra-curricular activities and social pressures at this stage, she will be lucky to get half of that. She may begin sleeping later during weekends due to being up later into the nights. Poor diet and lack of sleep may increase her physiological stressors.
During this stage the prefrontal cortex development finalizes and reaches maturity. This area of the brain is ultimately responsible for her memory, reasoning, planning and decision making. The brain begins to reorganize information and synaptic pruning takes place, which simply put means it is “burning bridges and building new ones” but more on that later.
The ways in which they begin thinking about themselves, others, and the rest of the world begins to modify in to a more adult way of thinking. She will enter her middle adolescence with a focus on things she experiences in the here and now, and then will move on to being able to imagine what possibilities life may hold for her. During this stage she will experience her reasoning and argument skills improving. Her ability to apply more complex notions to specific examples of learning begins. She will acquire the ability to use deductive reasoning and will learn to reason through their problems without the presence of concrete evidence. During this process she begins to be able to construct a hypothetical solution to her problems. At this stage abstract thinking lends to the development of empathy which makes them capable of experiencing a deeper understanding and ability of sharing the feelings of others.
During middle adolescence she will learn to recognize that her actions can have consequences that may affect her in the future. She begins to differentiate right from wrong and will develop a conscience. As her decision-making skills improve she will begin to set goals. She begins developing her own sense of self and starts exploring her independence. Successful completion of this stage leads to a strong sense of self that will remain throughout life.
As she seeks to establish a sense of self, she may experiment with different roles, activities, and behaviors. Thus, the unpredictable erratic behaviors are seen during adolescence. Parents and family members continue to exert an influence on how she feels about herself, but outside forces become increasingly more important during this time. Friends, social groups, schoolmates, societal trends, and even popular culture all play a significant role in shaping and forming her identity.
During this period, she will continue to be an emotional rollercoaster: happy one minute and troubled by self-doubt and fear in the next. These up’s and down’s calm as adolescence progresses and as she and gains more confidence in her own independence. During early-middle adolescence she may be easy-going, recognizing her own strengths and weaknesses but begins to find faults with parents as she begins to feel embarrassed by them. She will start to push her limits with them as well. She may also be reluctant to communicate with them until the latter part of her mid-adolescence when she begins to view them as equals and appreciate their company.
She prefers to remain busy and involved extracurricular happenings and her social circle is becoming larger and increasingly more diverse. There is a strong desire for independence as her friends are incredibly important to her now. She will begin to have friends of all sexes, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds but will find common ground as a basis for the foundation of friendships. Bullying may now become an issue that they are faced with. 10-20% of American teenagers report being victimized by their peers, which can lead to greater risk of mental health disorders.
At this point there is also an increased interest in the opposite sex or sexual preferences and they may start to experiment with their sexuality. They may even begin to struggle with gender identification and gender roles. Many studies performed suggest that early adolescent romantic relationships may have a negative impact on their well-being and may lead to mental health issues such as depression.
Two areas that will often play a significant role in this developmental stage are socioeconomic status and race. There is often a premise that if you are raised in a high level of socio-economics as an adolescent there will be a higher potential of developing a strong identity and self-esteem vs. an adolescent that is raised in a poor socio-economic status. This premise is also present among race. It is often the belief that white rich children will have a stronger identity and direction in life say then a poor black adolescent.
Research shows that these premises are not accurate. There is evidence that adolescents in both high level socioeconomic classes as well as poor struggle with their identity development during adolescent. Race also is not a determinate of whether an adolescent will struggle with successfully completing the development task at hand. So that said it is not stating that race and socioeconomic status don’t play a role in developing identity during adolescents it is just stating that these factors do not dictate a set outcome.
Literature review performed by Ragelienė, (2016) states that research has illustrated that the development of a strong sense of self emphatically leads to improved mental health outcomes. No matter what race or socio-economic status an adolescent is raised in if they are unable to develop a strong sense of self and direction in their lives and end up dealing with role confusion, adolescents will often exhibit symptoms of depression.