Adolescence and Adulthood Developmental Stages WorksheetUsing the text for this course, the University Library, the Internet, and/or other resources, answer the following questions. Your response to each question should be at least 250 words in length.
1. What are the major milestones related to the physical development in adolescence? Briefly describe these milestones.
The physical development that occurs during adolescence is brought about by the introduction of gonadotrophic hormones released by the endocrine glands, specifically the pituitary gland during the onset and duration of puberty (Boyd & Bee, 2006). The release of these hormones, mainly estrogen in girls and testosterone in boys, cause the appearance of both primary and secondary sex characteristics by about the age, on average, of 12 or 13. It is during these first few years of puberty that the productive systems of both boys and girls matures and becomes able to produce sex cells (gametes), ovum in girls and sperm in boys. Early adolescence is also the stage in which young women begin their monthly cycle or menarche. Furthermore, the cerebral cortex thickens during adolescence and more of the brain is myelinated, bring with it more efficiency in neural pathways. There is also an increase in lung and heart size and a decrease in heart rate. Also, during adolescence the bones in the hand mature to almost adult levels, with development occurring faster in girls than boys, giving a boost in coordination. However, boys outpace girls in muscle development and thickening during the adolescent years, bringing with it an increase in strength. With all of these physical changes taking place it is important to keep in mind that the level of physical activity during adolescence plays in integral part in maturation, both in skeletal structure and muscular structure; with increases in physical activity bringing about increased bone health, mediation of asthmatic symptoms, and treatment of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis (Azevedo, et. al., 2006).
2. What are the major milestones related to the cognitive development in adolescence? Briefly describe these milestones. How does cognition change from late childhood to adolescence?
Corresponding increases in cognitive abilities accompany the physical development of the cerebral cortex and neural pathways. As to whether the physical development brings about the cognitive development or vice versa, there is no clear conclusion, but that both are highly correlated is clear. Piaget believed that the cerebral growth spurts that occur during adolescence brought with them a new stage of cognitive development that he called the formal operational stage. Piaget hypothesized that during this stage an adolescent begins to comprehend abstract logic and reasoning, as evidenced by the ability to incorporate systematic problem-solving and hypothetico-deductive reasoning into their cognitive processes. Moreover, it is during adolescence that the ability to control memory and cognitive processes (metamemory and metacognition, respectively) begins to pay dividends in the areas of memorization, face recognition, and text learning. Also, increases in working memory capacity give the adolescent the ability to understand figurative language, metaphors, and proverbs. What’s more, an understanding of the effect that context has on the adolescent and the effect that the adolescent can have on context creates a bi-directional process called self-regulation, which brings with it a better understanding of the environment and the adolescent’s place in that environment (Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2008). Furthermore, advances in hypothetical logic enable an adolescent to estimate the perceived impact of certain actions and behaviors, thereby allowing for the implementation of imaginary audiences (built from a perceived peer group). In this way the adolescent has the ability to theorize about other people’s perceptions and impressions of themselves; whereas, a child can only view situations and behaviors from their own perspective.
3. What are the major milestones related to the physical development in early, middle, and late adulthood? Briefly describe these milestones.
Aging occurs concurrently in two separate domains during all of the stages of adulthood: 1) primary aging 2) secondary aging. Primary aging encompasses the normal, natural progression of the body from early adulthood until death; whereas, secondary aging constitutes progression associated with disease, health habits, and environmental influences. It is during young adulthood that aging begins to be measured in decline and loss rather than maturation and growth. However, there are certain neurological and physiological developments that do not come to pass until early adulthood. For instance, response inhibition in the frontal lobes as regulated by the limbic system is not fully matured until young adulthood, and heart and lung capacity (VO2 max) does not reach optimal levels until the young adult years in most people. Also, immune functioning, as related to B cell and T cell counts, finds its peak in adolescence and the young adult years but begins to decline steady in the middle adult years.
In the middle adult era secondary aging begins to have a significant impact on neurological and physiological functioning. For instance, behavior choices and lifestyle choices, such as alcoholism or depression, can have a significant impact on neurological structure and cognitive ability. Also, it appears that in middle adulthood more of the brain is activated to accomplish neurological processes than in young adults. It is hypothesized that this is due to the brain trying to overcompensate for degradation in neuro-synaptic connectivity that accompanies middle and late adulthood. Furthermore, men experience a steady decline in sexual functionality—lower sperm counts, erectile dysfunction, and lower amounts of seminal fluid—over the course of the middle adult years and into the later adult years. In women a more abrupt end to sexual functionality takes place in the form of menopause or the cessation of menses. Osteoporosis also begins to degrade the skeletal system of some adults during the middle adult years due to a loss of calcium production, which is accelerated in women by menopause. Also, the dual processes of presbyopia and presbycusis begin to decrease vision and auditory function, respectively, during the middle adult years.
It is during later adulthood that the degradation of dendrite redundancy, corresponding to a drop in synaptic plasticity, begins to effect actual real-world reaction times. Brain weight and a loss of gray matter also take place over the course of adulthood, but are more significant during later adulthood. Additionally, presbyopia and presbycusis are far more advanced during the later adult years—partly due to loss of blood flow to the affected areas and partly due to cumulative environmental factors, such as years of working in noisy factors, etc…
4. What are the major milestones related to the cognitive development in early, middle, and late adulthood? Briefly describe these milestones. How does cognition change from adolescence to adulthood?
Piaget argued that cognitive development ended with the formal operational stage that becomes apparent in late adolescence, but there is increasing evidence that cognitive development continues far into adulthood. Labourvie-Vief called this development contextual validity and hypothesized that this type of thinking incorporates myth, metaphor, and recognizes paradox and ambiguity as acceptable premises. On the other hand, Michael Basseches explains that post-formal operational thinking involves an, “…[attempt] to describe fundamental processes of change and the dynamic relationships through which this change occurs.” (Boyd & Bee, 2006, p. 368), and called this type of thinking dialectical thought. Lastly, Patricia Arlin described adult-related thought development as creativity or problem finding and theorized that adults cultivate this type of thinking in order to solve problems that have no clear answer or with incomplete contextual information.
It is in middle adulthood that secondary aging begins to exact a more significant cost on cognitive functions. Exercise, as related to physical and cognitive functioning, can help maintain a certain level of performance, but inevitably performance lags as the years begin to accumulate. However, as adulthood progresses crystallized abilities amass and works to balance out any loss of fluid abilities, which brings a curved trend to the whole process. There also appears to be a causal connection between physical exercise and continued cognitive abilities in middle adulthood.
The cognitive decline that accompanies later adulthood is largely due to a diminished working memory capacity. Through several different studies it was shown convincingly that on average the pieces of information that an adult can hold in working memory declines significantly from the age of 60 and beyond. It is also clear that a decline in metacongnition abilities during the later adult years slows strategy learning and metamemory functionality (Boyd & Bee, 2006; Vukman, 2005).
5. What are the major milestones related to the socioemotional development in adolescence? Briefly describe these milestones. How do peer relations change during adolescence? What type of strategies can be used to help adolescents with their problems?
Kohlberg devised 3 levels with 2 sub-stages a piece to explain moral development throughout the lifetimes: 1) Preconventional—Stage 1: punishment and obedience orientation; Stage 2: Individualism, instrumental purpose, and exchange— 2) Conventional—Stage 3: Mutual interpersonal expectations, relationships, and interpersonal conformity; Stage 4: Social system and conscience (Law and Order)— 3) Postconventional—Stage 5: Social contract or utility and individual rights; Stage 6: Universal ethical principles. These advances in moral reasoning overlap, exist concurrently, and end and begin over a lifetime. However, some general rules are that children do not usually reason over stages 1 or 2, and most adults reason at stages 3 and 4. Postconventional moral reasoning is in the vast minority, even in the adult population, but constitutes those that believe that there are a set of moral edicts which supersede all other concerns whatsoever.
Peer friendships become much important and central to a child’s social world in the adolescent years. Adolescents value loyalty and faithfulness in peer relationships and tend to find friends that share their same beliefs on drug use, smoking, academic achievement, sex, relational status, and level of social skills. Also, peer group conformity peaks at about age 13 and wanes when an adolescent builds more self-esteem and begins to develop a concrete idea of self.
It is important to emphasize both Kohlberg’s justice and Eisenberg’s empathy when confronting adolescent problems. The development of moral reasoning and emotion, such as role-taking skills, helps with the regulation of anger and the avoidance of antisocial behavior. If an adolescent can be taught to see a certain situation from another person’s perspective, then they are much more likely to avoid delinquent behavior.
6. What are the major milestones related to the socioemotional development in early, middle, and late adulthood? Briefly describe these milestones. What role does Erikson’s Stage of Generativity versus Stagnation play in the socioemotional development of adults?
Erikson believed that during the young adult years a person faces an intimacy versus isolation crisis, that during the middle adult years people face a generatively versus stagnation stage, and that during the late adult years the crisis pertains to ego integrity versus despair. In young adulthood we form intimate relationships that lead to children and spouses. It is during this stage that we form bonds with other people or choose social isolation. In particular, during the middle adult years a person faces the task of turning outwards in our approach to social interaction or occupying our time with the needs of the self. This can include rearing children, thereby establishing and guiding the next generation, mentoring, or taking leadership roles in the community. Generative behavior is highly correlated with mental health and life satisfaction in middle adulthood. Lastly, ego integrity, the last crisis, is incumbent on late adulthood because a sense that one’s life has been useful can only be achieved once the bulk of a person’s life has been lived. In essence, ego integrity involves coming to terms with life achievements and shortfalls, mistakes and accomplishments, missteps and successes. It is not necessarily that a person has lived a perfect life, but that the ideal self, as seen over a lifetime, is reconciled with the actual lifelong self. As with self-esteem, this largely has to do with the discrepancy between the aforementioned, rather than the sum total achievement. For instance, a person who was able to die and cover the costs of their own funeral might achieve ego integrity more than someone who passes on a large sum of money to relatives, because the ideal lifelong self was to die without passing on the costs of death to the relatives.
On another, but related note, current and ideal ratings of body satisfaction appear to become more discrepant with age (Altabe & Thompson, 1993). It is not clear exactly how this plays into ego integration, but for women body dissatisfaction is moderated by life achievement and life consistency.
Altabe, M., Thompson, J.K. (1993). Body image changes during early adulthood. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 13(3), 323-328. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database.
Azevedo, M.R., Hallal, P.C., Victora, C.G., & Wells, J.C. (2006). Adolescent physical activity and health. Sports Medicine, 36(12), 1019-1030. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database.
Boyd, D. and Bee, H. (2006). Lifespan development (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn Bacon.
Gestsdottir, S., Lerner, R.M. (2008). Positive development in adolescence: The development androle of intentional self-regulation. Human Development, 51(3), 202-224. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database.
Vukman, K.B. (2005). Developmental differences in metacognition and their connections with cognitive development in adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 12(4), 211-221. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database.