For this discussion, you will discuss your developmental processes from age 12- 18.

The secular trend refers to the earlier physical and sexual maturation that has been documented in recent history. For example, medical and school records in Scandinavia have shown that 200 years ago females were not menstruating until after 16 years of age. Males tend to mature one and a half to two years later than females. In addition, modern industrialized societies tend to be taller and heavier than before. Not all individuals are affected the same way. Thomas Jefferson was six feet two inches tall and Abraham Lincoln was six feet four inches tall. The secular trend has slowed in long term industrial societies, but it is very evident in societies in Asia that have adopted modern industrial practices. Today, females tend to have first menarche at about 12 ½ years and males produce sperm at about 14 ½ years. There may be many causes for the secular trend. Medical and public health changes, diet, breeding with mates from other regions of countries, clothing, physical activity, and preservatives have all been examined as possible causes. In my classes, I ask students if they are taller than their same sexed parent and, indeed, not a high percentage of the students are taller. However, there is a secular trend in weight. Today’s youth are tending to be heavier than their parents at the same age. If they can remember, you might want to compare yourself with your parents and grandparents at your age.

We take physical maturation for granted once we have gone through it. However, there is a wide range in years when individuals may go through puberty and reach physical and sexual maturity. An early maturing girl may have breast development as early as 9 years of age, third or fourth grade. Being out of “sync” with peers is generally stressful for any child. When I ask my classes if early maturation is an advantage or disadvantage for females, most agree that it is a disadvantage. There are a number of reasons why this might be a disadvantage in our society. Sexual maturity at this age will make the girl more of a sex object and thus attract sexual attraction for which she is not prepared. Older boys will tend to give her more attention. Boys her own age will tend to be shorter and far behind in physical maturation. Early maturing girls tend to have sexual intercourse earlier than later maturing girls. Early maturation can be an advantage for girls if they are in athletics because maturation usually makes them taller, stronger, and faster. In elementary school, the fastest runner may well be an early maturing girl. These early maturers may resent more household responsibilities and social restrictions that are often imposed on females in our society. In addition they gain weight and this may be a disadvantage in our society that values the slim female figure. Late maturing females tend to be more comfortable with their sexual maturation when it happens and are more likely to be able to handle their sexuality with others. They also do not have the early concerns about weight gain as much.

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Early maturing males tend to have more advantages than early maturing females or later developing males. Part of this is due to their increased strength and height which is an advantage in athletics. However there are social advantages two. They will be given more responsibility, be more attractive to females, and have a stronger self-concept about their roles among peers. Later maturing males have difficulty holding their own in sports. They may tend to be in intellectual or other activities where physical prowess is not paramount. This may not be to the preference of the boys who would rather be football stars. These late maturers are not given as many leadership responsibilities or other social opportunities. I always warn my future teachers in my classes that they should not expect physical maturation to be the sole indicator of how capable and responsible a student is. We inadvertently make discriminations based on physical maturation that are not warranted. Some research has found that later maturing boys may actually have greater satisfaction with themselves after thirty years of age because they have explored more possibilities in intellectual and social ways than early maturers. Early maturing athletes may not maintain their early advantages once the later maturers gain mature bodies.

The increase in sexual behavior among adolescents is a concern for our society. It is not wholly due to a decrease in moral teaching. I think much of it is due to the secular trend and the increased expectations we have for training before we allow adolescents to be treated like adults. For example, how would you answer the question, “When did you become an adult?” You may ask what do you mean by adult? Adulthood is hard to define because there are many expectations for adult status. In some societies, adulthood is bestowed when you go through puberty and are capable of reproducing. By this definition, an early maturing girl or boy would be adults at 10 and 12 years respectively. If strict adherence to sex “only after marriage” was demanded, then sexual behavior would only be allowed in the mid to late twenties by today’s marriage trends. Another way to define adulthood attainment is by social milestones. You are no longer an adolescent if you have graduated from high school, graduated from college, gotten a job, married and had a child. By these standards those who are not married, have no career, and no child are less mature. Psychological adulthood is defined as mature decision making behavior based upon examined and self-accepted internal principles. Perhaps very few individuals ever reach maturity based on that standard. Maybe the chronological definition of adulthood is the easiest and that is why it is the legal definition. You are an adult when you are 18, or is it 21? Hum, there is a problem even there. You can vote at 18 but you can’t drink or by a house on your own.

Are there sexual problems in our society because of the maturity/adulthood discrepancy? I think there are. The textbook details the issues with regard to early sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy. The fact that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect females more than males also shows our current difficulties dealing with physical development, body image and other sexual expectations in our society.

Many students who take this class are planning on becoming teachers. The abstracting abilities required in Formal Operation stage are especially important in education. Parents who try to teach their children how to do homework may also encounter Formal Operation issues. In Formal Operations a person is supposed to be able to think abstractly, focus on more than concrete realities, and follow internal principles and systematic plans. Following the scientific method requires Formal Operation reasoning. A student or child in concrete operations will have difficulty with algebra with all its symbols. For example, how can an X stand for 1.5 one time and 2.5 in another equation? Why do you have to follow all the tedious steps in order to solve an equation involving “unknowns”. I saw this abstracting problem when helping my child write an English theme. Good themes require an introductory paragraph that tells the reader what points and concepts will be covered in the theme. Then a body of the paper illustrates the points presented in the introduction. The concluding paragraph then demonstrates how the expectations of the first paragraph were confirmed or not confirmed. My daughter would always complain that she could not write the introductory paragraph because she did not know what she was going to write until she had already written it. She thought closing paragraphs were a waste because you already had said what you wanted to say. Her problems was she was not aware of how another person needed some guidance on where the theme was going (egocentrism) and she could not combine the facts of the body of the paper to make abstract trends and concepts. Her themes would tend to be something like: Mark Twain was an important author. He did funny stuff. He was important. The end. I hope your essays for this class are beyond what my daughter did in eighth grade.

The Ego Identity Status theory of James Marcia has always appealed to me because I remember struggling with the issues emphasized in his theory. In his interviews he asks persons about how strongly they hold to core values of personal philosophy and religion, how decided they are about occupations and careers, and whether they feel committed to other specific peers and individuals. His ego identity statuses seem descriptive of what I went through myself and what I see in others. Learn what is meant by Identity Diffusion, Identity Foreclosure, Identity moratorium, and Identity Achievement. His statuses focus on presence and absence of crises and whether a person after exploration has made commitment to values, careers, and other persons. Learn the identity statuses and determine how well they describe what you have been through and where you are now.

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