Adolescence Developmental Changes and Influences


Adolescence is a stage that occurs between childhood and adulthood and ranges from 12 to 20 years. In the beginning, the onset of adolescence was characterized by changes in the body where a child changes to adulthood (puberty) (Jane Kroger, 1996). However, puberty has been occurring so early especially in girls who start having their body changes at the age 9 years; this cannot be termed as the onset of adolescence and thus puberty has been associated with pre-adolescence.

The physical, cognitive, social, moral and personality changes that occur during adolescence cause conflicts and positive personality development to both boys and girls. In physical changes the stage of adolescence is characterized by psychological changes which lead to physical maturity to both boy and girls. However, during this stage both boys and girls develop different sexual characteristics; the girls start developing breast, grow pubic hair at the armpits and the private parts, hips broaden and she starts ovulating.

The boys on the other hand have their private parts increase with size and length, their voices deepen and they have nocturnal emissions or wet dream; their shoulders broaden and they may increase in height and weight (William C. Crain, 1999).

In social development an adolescent, whether a boy or a girl, develops self consciousness and become sensitive to the surrounding environment and their body images. Moreover, they start to form social groups and friends from the opposite sex. They have a feeling that their peers and people around them are observing their activities and appearances thus they take more time thinking about themselves and their behavior. The cognitive changes that occur during this stage give the adolescents the capability to think rationally and theoretically and come up with rational decisions. Moreover, they develop a new level of social awareness and are able to make good ethical judgements (William, 1999).

Personality development can be defined as the growth of structured pattern of behavior and attitude that differentiates a person from others (makes a person unique) and occur due to the on gong interaction between a person and the environment. The personality of an individual is recognized soon after his or her birth. In adolescence, the person develops self certainty and tries out different useful roles rather than adopting a negative identity.

The adolescent anticipates achievement and in late adolescence a sexual identity is established (Jane, 1996). When a person reaches adolescence stage, there are hormonal changes which might impact on their moral value. Many adolescents have been involved in immoral behaviors, for instance, many young people have been involved in drug taking, alcoholism, and sexual immorality. Moreover, adolescents have been described as rude and disrespectful.

Various factors have affected the physical, moral, cognitive, personality and social development of adolescents and these factors included;

Environmental influences affecting physical development

Diet; adolescence is a stage characterized with rapid growth in both mind and body thus a proper diet is required for an adolescence to grow physically. Moreover, poor diet has been known to cause health problems which may impede the physical development of adolescents. For instance, if an adolescent person feed more on fatty foods he or she may develop obesity which may inhibit his or her activity and thus poor physical development (William, 1999).

Availability of sports facilities; adolescence stage is a stage that involves a lot of physical activities which help in physical growth. However, there has been a difference in the physical growth between the urban adolescents and the rural adolescents. This has been attributed to availability of sporting facilities.

Socio-economic status of the parents; the parent that are considered to be of high socioeconomic status give their children the best care and when these children reach adolescent stage they grow well both physically and mentally. This is attributed to the fact that these parents can afford all the correct diet required for the physical growth of the adolescents as compared to the poor parents. Moreover, these parents are able to provide their children with the required treatments in case of diseases and also they can be able to pay for their sporting facilities (William, 1999).

Hereditary influences on physical development

Hereditary diseases; according to William (1999), are the diseases that are inherited from their parents and they may impede physical development in the adolescence stage. For instance, Huntington’s disease which causes recurrent abnormal movement (a person develops unsteady gait and mental disabilities). This may impede the physical development of the adolescent.

Genetic inheritance; this means that the child inherits some genes from the parents, for instance, if both the parent of the child are short then the child will stagnate and may permanently become short.

Environmental factors that influence cognitive development

Peer groups; adolescents develop an attachment between them and their friends more than the family members; they may have a group think kind of reasoning where the adolescent will make decision in relation to the group instead of him or her self. The adolescent will tend to make certain decision in order to fit in a certain peer group. For instance, if an adolescent is faced with a decision of to go or not to go to a university outside country he or she may choose to go depending on whether her friends are going. Moreover, the peer group may make a collective choice on a certain college so that they end up in one school (Jane, 1996).

Education; education in adolescence may affect their way of understanding things and making decisions. An adolescent may make decision depending on knowledge acquired in school. For instance, on the choice of food, a young person may choose not to eat fatty foods like fried chicken reason being that they learnt in their nutrition class that it makes one add weight. The more educated an adolescent is the more rational decision he or she will make.

Parenting style; the way an adolescent has been brought up also affects their cognitive development. If the parents are authoritative, the adolescent child will not have a chance to think and reason by themselves because the parents will make decisions for them. But with authoritarian parent, the child can think autonomously and when he or she reaches adolescence stage, the child makes his or her own rational decisions. For example, an authoritarian parent will allow her children to choose the school that he or she wants to be and when he or she reaches adolescent the child is also allowed to take the subject that he/she wants and can also choose the kind of friends that he or she wants (William, 1999).

Hereditary influences on cognitive development

Genetic hereditary; a child may inherit genes from the parents that may affect the way that child thinks and reasons. For instance, if the parents of the adolescent were not performing well in school, this can be transferred to the children where they too cannot be able to make clear and reasoned decisions.

Individual differences; are the differences within an individual and they affect the way one thinks and perceive things. For instance, if two adolescent persons are faced with a similar life situation (decision on whether to go on a vacation with her or his friends), they will reason differently and thus make different decisions. This will depend on the genetic composition and will reflect an attachment with the other family members (for example, if a family member had ever done that)

Theoretical perspectives associated with moral, social and personality development

Social domain theory; in this theory children build different forms of social knowledge including morality. These different forms of social structures are built through social interaction with the adults, peers and siblings. According to William (1999), in this theory morality is seen as the rules that regulate social relations and connection with other individuals and the society at large. It is based on the notion of welfare, trust and justice. Moral judgements are seen as a must, universal, not changeable and is determined by criteria instead of an accord or institutional convection. This has an effect on the personality of an individual who may change or become rebellious according to the rules that are set.

Self-perception theory; this theory assumes that one develops an attitude by looking at his or her behavior and concluding on what attitude to adopt. It tends to assume that an attitude develops after certain behaviors. Adolescent may have or involve themselves into certain behavior and after looking at the consequences of their behavior they adopt a certain attitude Social interaction among the adolescents has been associated with moral and immoral behaviors, these behaviors may lead to change in the attitude of the adolescent either positively or negatively (Jane, 1996).


Adolescence stage is a very delicate stage and the changes involved may affect the eventual outcome of an adult. Thus when dealing with the adolescent, great care should be taken to ensure that the adolescents grow in a morally manner; parents should ensure that their children grow to responsible young adults (William, 1999). This they can achieve by showing a positive behavior to issues that come their way.


William C. Crain, (1999), Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications. 4th Edition. Prentice Hall.

Jane Kroger (1996), Identity in Adolescence: The Balance between Self and Other. 2nd Edition Routledge.

Find out your order's cost