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Running Head: PHYSICAL PSYHCOSOCAL MORAL COGNATIVE DEVELOPMENT OF ADOLECENTS
The Characteristics of physical, psychosocial, moral, and cognitive development of middle school adolescents Jason Crews EDU 32834 Educational Psychology October 11, 2007
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Abstract Adolescents, children with age ranging from 11-13, are at a very important developmental stage in their lives. Important changes are occurring in their physical, psychosocial, moral, and cognitive areas. These changes can cause emotional and family conflicts that should be understood and appreciated by educators in order to ensure proper development and education.
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The characteristics of physical, psychosocial, moral, and cognitive development of middle school adolescents Introduction Adolescence is a term usually used to refer to children eleven, twelve, and thirteen years old, but it can also be used to refer to children as young as ten. The primary marker used to delineate students who have left middle childhood and entered adolescence is the child’s entry into puberty (Balk and Steinberg as cited in Snowman, 2006, P. 83). Adolescence is a time of unparalleled change. Teens experience joy, despair, apathy, and confusion, sometimes all within the space of an hour. The body changes and becomes unfamiliar (Justis, 2000, para. 1); nevertheless adolescence is a time when crucial habits are formed, and decisions are made which have a life-long impact (Justis, 2000, para. 3). That is why it is important for educators to understand what characterizes their students in order to be effective in the classroom. Physical Development Although, the exact age at which a child reaches puberty and begins their physical transition into adulthood varies, children can
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begin puberty as young as eight. Females can begin developing breasts as young as eight reaching full physical maturity as late as eighteen or nineteen years old. Another important milestone in the physical development of females is the beginning of their menstrual periods which typically occur between the ages of twelve and thirteen here in the United States. Males, however, generally begin experiencing the signs puberty a little later in their lives. They will begin experiencing scrotal and testicular enlargement followed closely by the lengthening of the penis as early as 9 years old. The full onset of puberty is normally marked by the onset of nocturnal emissions, wet dreams, usually occurring between fourteen and fifteen years old (Andersen, 2007, para. 5- 8). Girls’ experience a rapid growth in height, generally peaking about twelve years old, while boys tend to experience their peak growth at about fourteen years old (Andersen, 2007, para. 5,8). The most noticeable growth may occur in height, but not all parts of the body grow at the same rate. For some, hands and feet, tend to grow faster giving many adolescents a gangly or clumsy look (Stienberg as cited in Snowman, 2002, P. 83). Because their physical changes may not occur on a regular schedule, adolescents may experience both
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physical mobility and coordination awkwardness (Andersen, 2007, para 10-11). Problems can arise if adolescent girls are not informed and prepared for pubescent events such as the onset of menstrual periods, or if adolescent males are not provided accurate information about nocturnal emissions. (Andersen, 2007, para. 11) The physical changes typically cause this phase of development to be one of selfconsciousness, sensitivity, and concern over their bodies’ changes, all while comparing their development to their peers (Andersen, 2007, para. 10). Psychosocial Development Parallel to physical changes, psychological and social changes occur that also mark adolescence as a critical stage in becoming an adult (Christie, 2005, para. 5). Adolescence is often marked by the child’s attempts to establish their identity. According to Erik Erickson the period is marked by crisis between role identity and role confusion. The adolescent begins to ask themselves questions such as “What am I good at?”, “How do others perceive me?”, and “What kind of person am I?”(Barnett, 2005, para. 3). This process is often difficult for
adolescents because they may change periodically in terms of their
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self-concept. As adolescents enhance their understanding of themselves, they actually become more aware of their own emotions and feelings and how these feelings affect their daily lives. As a result they slowly begin to change their self-identity, which is how they perceive their characteristics and abilities fit with the opportunities that are available to them (Barnett, 2005, para 5). As the children struggle with role identity and role confusion they begin to separate from their parents and establish an individual identity. This can cause a great deal of conflict as parents attempt to maintain control over the adolescent and they act rebelliously. As their reliance on family for identity diminishes, their peer group becomes more important. Their peer group usually consists of non-romantic friendships, often including "cliques," gangs, or clubs. Members of the peer group often attempt to behave alike, dress alike, have secret codes or rituals, and participate in the same activities. They become safe places where adolescents can compare physical and psychological growth (Andersen, 2007, para. 12-15). Moral Development Because moral reasoning is primarily shaped during early adolescence questions of when that development begins and how it
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occurs become important (Perry, 1995, Para 1). However, questions about moral development are more difficult to discuss given the disagreement on the definition of morality (Berkowitz, 1998, para. 3). In spite of this disagreement one of the primary functions of middle schools remains to meet the developmental needs of early adolescents. Middle school proponents contend that early adolescence is an important definitional stage in human development during which a person's value system and behavior is shaped (Perry, 1995, Para. 1). Adolescents are in the process transitioning to the morality of cooperation. This means they become more willing to think of rules as mutual agreements, although they are more likely to be obeyed out respect for authority or out of desire to impress others (Stienberg as cited in Snowman, 2002, P. 83). Several studies have shown that moral development is directly affected and can be predicted based on parenting styles (Berkowitz, 1998, para. 34). However, it is easy to conclude in cases where parental involvement in unavailable or minimal schools and teacher can become easy surrogates.
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According to Jean Piaget’s Stage Theory adolescence falls in the transition between the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage, and is marked by the acquisition of formal operational thought. Piaget contends that this mode of thinking is a logical extension of skills the child has learned earlier in their lives, and is developed slowly over time (Ritter, 2003, P. 3). During this transition children begin to recognize the complexity of issues and that information can be interpreted in different ways. They learn flexibility, complex reasoning, inductive and deductive reasoning, sensitivity toward others, and problem solving (Fackler, 2004, para. 6). This allows them to comprehend abstract content, such as higher mathematics and moral philosophies (Andersen, 2007, para. 1; Ritter, 2003, P. 2). However, this new ability to see other points of view can be unsettling for adolescents. Many times children will question issues that they once accepted at face value. This can cause a great deal of stress causing children to revert back to their previous concrete and simplistic thinking (Fackler, 2004, para. 6). This sort of cognitive development is common amongst adolescents, but is far from universal. In fact, while most of Piaget’s researched were conducted with European children and those children generally fit his categorization, only one-third to one-half of American
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seventeen year olds tested indicated responded to the formal operational level (Ritter, 2003, P. 3). Studies such as these suggests that while cognitive development can begin during adolescence there are other factors which contribute the extent to which it develops. Conclusion Adolescent students endure numerous physical, psychosocial, moral, and cognitive changes on a daily basis. Those changes often cause adolescents to conflict with their family, teachers, and even cause conflict within their selves. By attempting to understand and appreciate what they are going through we as educators can help them through this turbulent phase of their lives, and enrich them with a quality education.
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References Andersen, L. (2007, Feburary 14) Adolescent development. Medline Plus. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002003.htm. Barnet, R. (2005, December 6) Helping teens answer the question "Who Am I?": cognitive development in adolescents. University of Florida, IFAS Extension. Retrieved on October 9, 2007 from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FY769. Berkowitz, M. (1998) Fostering goodness: teaching parents to facilitate children's moral development. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Berkowitz/Berkowitz.html Christie, D. (2005) Clinical review, ABC of adolescence, adolescent development. BMJ. Retrieved October 9, from http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/330/7486/301.
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Crain, W.C. (1985) Theories of development: chapter seven Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Prentice-Hall. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm
Fackler, A. (2004, March 26) Cognitive development: How adolescent thinking evolves. Yahoo! Health. Retrieved on October 9, 2007 from http://health.yahoo.com/ency/healthwise/te7261. Justis, E. (Winter 2000) Adolescent medicine meeting the physical, psychological, and emotional needs unique to teens. Pakard Childrens News. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://www.lpfch.org/fundraising/news/winter00/adolescents.html. Perry, C. (Fall 1995) Modes of moral judgment among early adolescents. Journal of psychopathology and social sciences. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from
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http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_n119_v30/ai_173872 39. Ritter, E. (2003) The social-cognitive development of adolescents: implications for the teaching of speech. EBSCO Publishing. Retrieved from EBSCOHost database. Snowman J, Biehler, R. (2006) Psychology applied to teaching. Boston:Houghton Mifflin Company.
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