A Physically Developmental Awareness of Adolescents

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 ILLUSTRATION: PIX FOR VISUAL PURPOSE/PIXABAY

Physical growth proceeds in fits and starts from two years of age to adolescence, but it is not until adolescence that another dramatic growth spurt occurs. In particular, it appears earlier in girls than in boys. Boys are typically taller and heavier than girls at age ten. On the contrary, girls are taller and heavier than boys by age thirteen. By age sixteen, the situation returns to the way it had been before the onset of adolescence. For teachers, these cases play a ‘must’ role in becoming aware of their instructional process.
Between males and females, there are physiological-psychological differences that are built into species, and educational practices should be altered so that every member of each sex will be given full opportunity to make the most of his or her potential. During the first few months of life, boys are less sensitive to and less often startled by sounds and do not turn as often towards them. Girls show superior development of fine motor coordination, not just with their fingers but also in the small muscles of the larynx and pharynx – hence, they even sing in tune at a younger age. Girls know to speak at a younger age, develop larger vocabularies, and generally retain linguistic superiority throughout life. In school, they learn foreign languages more easily. Boys suffer much more from speech difficulties, like stuttering, stammering, and the use of `um’ or `err’ interjections. Boys are more overtly aggressive than girls, especially as adolescents. They are less able to sit still for long periods. Thus, they are by far more apt to be diagnosed as hyperactive when they reach school age. However, boys are superior in tests of spatial relations. On IQ tests, girls consistently outperform boys on a number of verbal subtests, whereas boys do better in areas of arithmetic.
Environmentalists explain all these above-mentioned differences as a result of the way the culture treats and differentially reinforces the sexes. Little boys are told to be more active and aggressive by parents, teachers, and storybooks, whereas little girls are admonished not to run, jump, or be boisterous simply because it is not ladylike. Through reinforcement, the girls condition themselves to sit more quietly and to develop generally more passive pursuits such as learning to sew and playing with dolls. Boys are allowed to throw themselves into rough-and-tumble games, and due to their conditioning, they are less able to sit passively or exercise and develop their fine muscle coordination. As for spatial relations, boys are encouraged to be curious about the world of nuts, bolts, hammers, and saws.
By genetics, Neurologist Richard Restak says that there are indeed fundamental differences, both chemical and morphological, between the male and female brains. The left hemisphere of the female brain is more heterogeneous and more neurologically complex than that of the male brain. In right-handed persons and 60 per cent of left-handed persons, the left hemisphere contains the language centres, even among left-hemisphere stroke victims, far more women than men retain their ability to speak and understand language. Problems based on spatial relations are, however, controlled by the right hemisphere and herein, the male brain is more complex. There are, say, geneticists, innate sex differences in brain organization, and to ignore them is just to escape into fantasyland.
So much research has gone into discovering what differences exist between early-maturing (EM) and late-maturing (LM) adolescents rather than the rate of physical maturity. Social psychologists state that the way people respond often depends on how others treat them. People who are treated like children frequently respond in childlike ways, and those who are treated like adults respond with more maturity. Despite this, early maturity can be a problem. If teachers and parents see early maturity as a negative characteristic, the adolescent can be affected adversely. According to studies on early and late mature adolescents, there are almost no differences in IQ, grade placement, or socioeconomic status between them. EM boys are rated by their peers as being physically more attractive and better athletes, so they are elected to their leaders quite often. On personality tests, EM boys show more self-control, more interest in girls, more extroversion, and higher levels of self-esteem. By the time they reach high school, EM girls tend to be shorter, stockier, and less satisfied with their fingers, while LM girls become taller, thinner, and more satisfied. In comparing the peer ratings of EM boys and girls, the EM boys are perceived in a more favourable way on a variety of personal and social traits than the EM girls.
At each age and stage of physical development, children and adolescents need continued assurance from adults so as to accommodate themselves to and assimilate the effects of constant change. During adolescence, diversity and change are at peak intensity, and the differences between the sexes and within the sexes are at a maximum. Each individual student and each subgroup of students need extra support during this critical period. Handling this situation can be extremely delicate. Teachers ought to develop an additional awareness of and sensitivity to those aspects of this often-hidden classroom agenda. Careful listening to student concerns and some judicious reading between the lines will provide the teachers with more than a few cues as to possible reasons for a student’s sudden, unexplainable upset, mood change, or rapid attention shift.

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14 July 2024