Teenagers: Changes, Identities and Problems

The article of this term paper is about teenagers. You will discover inside the two physical changes that teenagers undergo that are the development of primary and the development of secondary sex characteristics. In addition, you will discover the psychological changes that occur in teenagers which are either due to those physical changes or due to the family (parents and siblings) and the environment (society and culture). Moreover, you are going to get more acknowledged about the different kinds of identities that they develop as they are growing up to become mature adults in addition to many problems that may face them.

I. Introduction:
A. Brief introduction about adolescence and adolescents.
B. Thesis statement: This is a strange period in which teenagers undergo many physical and psychological changes, construct their identities and face many problems.
II. Body:
A. Physical changes
1. primary sex characteristics
2. secondary sex characteristics
B. Psychological changes
1. Due to physical changes
2. Due to family and environment
C. Identities for teenagers
1. Achieved identity
2. Moratorium identity
3. Foreclosure identity
4. Diffused identity
D. Problems that may face teenagers
1. Eating disorders
a. Obesity
b. Bulimia nervosa
c. Anorexia nervosa
2. Drug usage
3. Sexually transmitted diseases
4. Pregnancy
III. Conclusion:
A. Brief summary of what mentioned in the body.
B. Concluded statement: Teenagers need love, support, help and understanding from their parents and the whole surrounding in order to feel comfort and confidence.

As the human-being is growing up, there are many stages that he has to pass through. In general, he will pass from the childhood stage to the adulthood stage. But, this passage necessitates the presence of an intermediate stage between the two that begins between 10-12 years old and called adolescence. Here comes the word adolescent or teenager describing the individual who is passing through this stage. Because of my passion toward this period of life and what it hides behind, this term paper is concerned about teenagers. This is a strange period in which the teenagers undergo many physical and psychological changes, construct their identities and face many problems.

Since teenagers are growing up from childhood to adulthood in order to become sexually mature, they are subjected to many physical changes as well as many psychological effects due to these changes.
First of all, teenagers undergo two kinds of physical development. They are: development of primary sex characteristics and development of secondary sex characteristics. According to the development of primary sex characteristics, this kind of development involves the enlargement of sex organs in a time that “is apparently regulated by the interaction of genes, health, and environment” (Papalia & Diane, 1995, p.345). At this stage, teenagers experience many hormonal changes in their bodies; where the anterior pituitary gland secretes hormones (gonadotropic hormones: FSH and LH) that affect the action of other glands, mainly the gonads which are sex glands. These hormones affect the growth of egg cells in the ovaries of the female and the production and release of female sex hormones (progesterone and estrogen) by gonads (Rice, 1999). Females, due to these hormonal changes, undergo a new change in their bodies known as menses or menstrual cycle which indicates the achievement of sexual maturity in them (Papalia & Diane). The gonadotropic hormone, LH, only affects the growth of sperm cells in the testes of the male and the production and release of male sex hormones (testosterone) by gonads too (Rice, 1999). In males, the sexual maturity is reached when sperm cells are found in their urine (Papalia & Diane). According to the development of secondary sex characteristics, this kind of development involves changes in teenagers’ bodies too but not in the genital system as the primary sex characteristics do. As for males, pubic hair starts to appear, axillary hair (hair under arms) appears after pubic hair, beard grows, shoulders and chest become broader, height and weight increase rapidly, skin becomes more tough, and voice changes. As for females, pubic hair starts to appear too, and then axillary hair appears too, body hair (on arms and legs) develops at last. Moreover; females are subjected to changes in the size and shape of their breasts; in addition, height and weight increase too (Rice).

Second, teenagers undergo changes in their moods because of the psychological effects due to these physical changes mentioned above. In general, males are characterized by their aggression, and females are characterized by their aggression and depression (Papalia & Diane, 1995). Whatever the gender is, males and females are stressed all the time taking care of their physical appearance after their giant jump in maturation. As for males, early-matured males are “found to be more poised, relaxed, good-natured, popular with peers, and likely to be leaders… more worried about being liked, more cautious, and more bound by rules” (Papalia & Diane, p.348). In addition, early-matured males are more interested in dating girls (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky, 1989). They can be trusted by adults and given responsibilities, and they have to act as adults (Papalia & Diane). They “run the risk of prematurely adopting a personal and career identity”. In their adult life, “they are likely to be more successful vocationally and to be more conventional in career and lifestyle choices” (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky, p.300). On the other hand, late-matured males are “found to feel more inadequate, rejected, aggressive, and insecure; to rebel more against their parents; and to think less of themselves” (Papalia & Diane, p.348). Late-matured males “are not very interested in dating girls”; they are “impulsive, restless, and lacking in self-confidence” (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky, p.300). They act as children in opposite to early-matured males (Papalia & Diane). They need “more time to explore and experiment with their options before becoming fixed in their identity”. In adulthood, “they tend to be insightful; independent, curious, and less bound by rules and routines. They are also less conventionally successful” (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky, p.300). Early-matured males do not have enough “time to prepare for the changes of adolescence”; however; late-matured males have this time, but they have also troubles “of being smaller and more childish-looking than their peers (Papalia & Diane, p.348). As for females, “early-matured females tend to be less social, experience, and poised; more introverted and shy” and they feel negative about menstruation (Papalia & Diane, p.349). Early-matured females are not good at school as late-matured females; they have more school behavior problems, more dissatisfied with their bodies, more independent and more socially active (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky). Early-matured females are treated more strictly and seriously by adults than late-matured females. However in adult life, early-matured females can make better adjustments than late-matured females (Papalia & Diane, p.300).

In conclusion, “effects of early or late maturation are most likely to be negative when adolescents are very different from their peers -either by being much more or much less developed- and when they do not see the changes as advantageous” (Papalia & Diane, p.349).

Now, after discovering the psychological effects that are due to physical changes, we will discuss other factors that affect teenagers’ personalities. These factors are family (mainly parents) and environment (society and culture).

According to the family, parents’ role has an essential impact on the psychological side of teenagers’ personalities. We all know that the generation gap between parents and their teenagers is the main cause of the conflict between them. “Despite a loving relationship, most teenagers and their parents frequently find themselves in a quarrelling and antagonistic relationship” (lifespan, 1989, p.328). Teenagers always see themselves lacking sufficient freedom necessary to make their own decisions in their lives. They are always over criticized by their parents because parents usually interfere in their sons’ lives. Teenagers generally do not express what they feel and what they do to their parents. Teenagers really need more privacy at this stage of their development. As a result, closeness between a teenager and his parents diminishes and conflict between them increases.

However; when the teenager accepts many values of his family, the degree of conflict between him and his family decreases; whereas, it increases as the teenager rejects those values. At last, this conflict decreases gradually as the teenager passes to middle and late stages of adolescence (Gorlmly & Brodzinsky, 1989). As for teenagers’ relationship with their siblings, there is a high level of conflict between a teenager and his siblings. This conflict may decrease when there is a “drop-off in the amount of time siblings spent playing and talking with each other” (Santrock, 1996, p.196). They are commonly more likely to spend much of their time with peers in stead with their families.

According to the environmental influences, there are two qualities of personality that are characteristic of a man or a woman. “To be a man, a male must be a big wheel, have status, be successful, and be admired…, must be a sturdy rock with an air of toughness, confidence, and self-reliance”(Rice, 1999, p.169). A male having the above characteristics is considered as a masculine man. As for women, a female is considered a feminine woman when she “is labeled according to culturally determined criteria for femaleness” (Rice, p.169). Consequently, a male teenager tries to have masculine characteristics in order to become a masculine male; similarly, a female teenager tries to do her best to become a feminine female in the society. Moreover, masculine and feminine qualities of personality may differ from one society or culture to another. Consequently, teenagers living in different societies and different cultures are subjected to different concepts about masculinity and femininity in addition to different values, traditions, customs, and beliefs.

In conclusion, as the teenager is surrounded be a huge number of influences whether parents and siblings (conflicts), society and culture, he is going to create his own attitudes, options, and conclusions about the world around either positively or negatively in accordance to these influences.
In the previous discussion, we said that some teenagers may be fixed at their identities while others do not. As teenagers are developing their identities, they are more concerned about their futures. “Although adolescents may not settle on a particular career at this point, they do begin to narrow their choices according to their interests, values, and abilities” (Steinberg, 2003). In accordance to those identities, it has been suggested that there are four kinds of identities which are achieved identity, moratorium identity, foreclosure identity and diffused identity. Whenever we want to talk about the identity, we have to keep in mind two keywords: crisis and commitment. “Crisis refers to the adolescent’s period of engagement in choosing among meaningful alternatives, commitment refers to the degree of personal investment the individual exhibits” (Rice, 1999, p.183). First, the achieved identity is the phase in which the teenager has experienced and resolved crisis carefully and has evaluated all his options and made decisions on his own. Once an identity has been achieved, there is a self-acceptance, a stable self-definition, and a commitment to a vocation, religion, and political ideology (Rice). Many individuals do not reach this stage before the graduation of high school primarily because they still live with their parents and are under their rules. Second, the moratorium identity is the phase in which the teenager is experiencing crisis, but many at once without making commitments. Consequently, he often feels perplexed, unbalanced, and dissatisfied. Moratorium teenagers have not yet found an acceptable identity and are still investigating their options. Third, the foreclosure identity is the phase in which the teenager has not experienced a crisis. However, he may have already made commitments to occupations and ideologies that have been enforced by parents, society, or any other outside force other than his own. Fore closured teenagers are unable to distinguish between their own goals and interests and the ones that their parents make for them. Fourth, the diffused identity is the phase in which the teenager has not experienced an identity crisis. Also, he has not made any commitments regarding religion, sex roles, a political standing, or an occupation. Many young teenagers characterize this status. Diffused teenagers are often confused and are overwhelmed; therefore they do not search for constructing their identities (Bee, 2000).

Furthermore, since teenagers take care of their appearance as we said previously, they are usually worried about their bodies’ appearance. “They consult physicians most often for skin and cosmetic problems, coughs and sore throats, and (for girls) prenatal care” (Papalia & Diane, 1995, p.351). But the main fear for teenagers in this issue is that they are afraid of being fat, especially girls. Also, since teenagers may be affected negatively by the surrounding, they may smoke, drink, and use marijuana for example. As a consequence, teenagers may face some problems that are eating disorders, drug usage, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
As for eating disorders: In general, teenagers need to vary kinds of food in their diet. Calories intake increases in adolescence to become 2200 calories per day for a female and 2800 calories per day for a male. Teenagers have to eat food rich in protein, since protein contributes in the growth of the human-being. They must eat food that is rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc. Calcium is necessary for bone growth; its deficiency may lead to osteoporosis. Iron-deficiency causes anemia. “Zinc-deficiency can delay sexual maturity” (Papalia & Diane, 1995, p.352). However, teenagers because of their fear of being fat they may lessen eating sufficient amount of food and may face eating disorders. Eating disorders can be classified as follows: obesity, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Experts decided that a 20% above the normal weight would be considered obesity. Obesity results from overeating high-fatty food. So, teenagers have to avoid eating fatty food, and obese teenagers must make programs in order to change their behavior in diet and exercise regularly in order to get rid of some kilograms. Bulimia nervosa is a psychological disease characterized by episodes of binge-eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control (purging). These methods include vomiting, fasting, enemas, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics, or compulsive exercising. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disease too, but it is more deadly. It is characterized by a body weight at least 15% below that expected for a person’s height, where people avoid fatting foods and make excessive exercises. Teenagers being concerned with their body size and shape may have this disorder especially those who are in “cultural settings where slenderness is strongly emphasized” (Bee, 2000, p.130). Both diseases can be treated by antidepressant drugs.

As for use of drugs: Many teenagers “are using such drugs as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, barbiturates, heroin, and cocaine … Alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are the three drugs most popular with adolescents” (Papalia & Diane, 1995, p.355). “Most teenagers start to drink because it seems a grown-up thing to do, and they continue to do so for the same reasons adults do” (Papalia & Diane, p.356). They drink to feel good, happy, reduce stress, and to escape from problems. These reasons make teenagers to smoke marijuana too. Teenagers are jealous; they want to do whatever they see, they want to discover, to explore and to experience everything. They want to hurtle to adulthood” (Papalia & Diane, p.356). In addition, most teenagers start to smoke tobacco at the early stage of adolescence until they become nicotine dependent due to their jealousy too as they try to imitate their parents, friends, etc… At last, alcohol leads to troubles through driving causing death; marijuana leads to heart and lung troubles, impedes memory and leaning, lessens eating habits for teenagers; smoking can cause lung cancer, heart cancer in addition to other complications (Papalia & Diane).

As for sexually transmitted diseases: Since teenagers become sexually mature, most of them tend to meet the opposite sex. They may have multiple sexual partners and do not use condoms (males) consistently. As a result, diseases can be transmitted by sexual contacts. Such diseases are chlamydia and genital warts affecting females, gonorrhea and syphilis that are more serious, also HIV which is life-threatening. “Most of these infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics; if left untreated, they may cause pelvic inflammatory disease in females… or increase the risk of cervical cancer or arthritis. Untreated syphilis can cause paralysis, brain damage, convulsions and sometimes death” (Bee, 2000, p.128). So, if any symptoms are present, they must seek immediately for medical treatment.

As for pregnancy: It results for the sexual contact between the two sexes. Some females become pregnant when they are teenagers. “Adults can help adolescents prevent unwanted pregnancies. For example, parents and teachers can provide sex education to instruct young people in how to deal with their sexual feelings before they become sexually active” (Steinberg, 2003, p.63).

All in all, all children in the whole world and along the extension of years will be subjected to this intermediate stage in which they tend sometimes to childhood stage and they tend in other times to adulthood stage. They will be subjected to different physical and psychological changes. They will be influenced by their surroundings whether family, or peers, or society and culture. Moreover, they may face dangerous troubles and problems. Parents’ assessment is needed at this significant period. Teenagers need love, support, help and understanding from their parents and the whole surrounding in order to feel comfort and confidence.

Reference List:
Bee, H. (2000). The child development (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Gormly, A. V., & Brodzinsky, D. M. (1989). Lifespan human development (4th ed.). Fort
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Papalia, D. E., & Olds, S.W. (1995). Human development (6th ed.). New York:
Rice, F. P. (1999). The adolescent: Development, relationships and culture (9th ed.).
London: Allyn and Bacon.
Santrock, J. W. (1996). Adolescence (6th ed.). Madison: Brown and Benchmark
Steinberg, L. (2003). Adolescent. In Anderson, M. A., & Dede, C. (Eds.), The world book
encyclopedia (vol. 1, pp. 63-64). Chicago: World Book, Inc a Scott Fetzer company.