Physical Growth & Development During The Teen Years
What’s it all about?
During adolescence, teens grow, change in shape and become capable of producing children. Adults face 2 major issues when looking at adolescent growth and development:
- Understanding adolescents in the context of their own experiences, as well as the expectations of the adult world.
- Helping adolescents know if their growth falls within the parameters of “normal,” or when to seek additional help.
Why does it matter?
Adolescents are often asking “Am I normal?” They worry: “I don’t look like my friends.” “I’m too tall/short, fat/thin.” Adults who reassure them and give clear, helpful information can support teens through this confusing and challenging time. Knowledgeable adults can help teens learn to cope with the changes in their bodies and avoid
Note: It is important to keep in mind that physical and emotional development do not always occur at the same pace. So, although a teen may have the body that looks like an adult, they may still be developing the emotional maturity that goes along with it!
What are the details?
|Stage||Physical Changes in Girls||Physical Changes in Boys|
|Early (11-14 years)||
|Middle (15-17 years)||
|Late (18-19 years)||
What can I do?
As an adult in a teen’s life, there are many things you can do to help them safely move through the growth and development of adolescence.
Here are a few tips:
- Start talking to youth at 9 or 10 years of age about puberty. They should be prepared early for upcoming changes.
- Provide solid, accurate information about the physical changes teens experience.
- Reassure teens that there is a great deal of variation in “normal growth and development.”
- Support healthy food choices. Teens need lots of calcium-rich foods for bone growth. Provide healthy alternatives to “junk food.”
- If eating habits start jeopardizing health (unreasonable dieting, rapid weight gain or loss), do not hesitate to consult a doctor.
- Encourage regular physical activity. Regular exercise contributes to a teen’s health—from walking to school to organized sports. Be a role model by exercising regularly yourself.
- Provide information or encourage teens to learn more about growth and development.
- Be alert for early and late physically maturing adolescents because they may be at increased risk for a number of problems such as depression. If something seems wrong, consult a health care provider. There is no harm in asking questions.
- Take the time to listen. Adults should take teens seriously when they raise concerns about their appearance.
- If a teen does not have health insurance, check eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides health coverage to children whose families have too much income to qualify for the children’s Medicaid program but who don’t have, or can’t afford, private insurance for their children.
What’s up with puberty?
What milestones define puberty?
- Reproductive organs mature and secondary sex characteristics develop (pubic hair, facial hair).
- Bones grow rapidly (adolescent growth spurt), then slow before finally stopping.
- The body’s shape, including fat distribution, changes.
- Strength and endurance increase.
- The mind and emotions change and mature. The teen develops more “adult” feelings, ideas and values.
Major outcomes of puberty:
- Adult size, shape and appearance
- Physical distinction between sexes
- Ability to reproduce
Features of puberty:
- The sequence of changes is similar for all persons.
- There may be a wide variation in the pace at which changes occur (when it starts and how long it takes).
- Physical changes that can be seen in the body and mental/emotional changes (mood swings, changes in values, strong romantic attachments) reflect the normal hormonal changes that go on inside the body and mind of the teen.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Social and Health Services.
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