Discuss the relationship between physical change and development of identity
changes in adolescence
maturation and adult reproductive functioning are controlled by the endocrine
system that operates through the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal system. During
the prenatal period, hormones called androgens organize the reproductive system
but these hormones are suppressed after birth. They are reactivated in early
childhood (around the age of eight for girls and six for boys) and this starts
the puberty process with gradual maturation of the body and the reproductive
system. All individuals experience the same bodily changes during puberty but
the sequence of changes may vary.
puberty, boys and girls produce roughly the same amount of “male hormones”
(e.g. testosterone) and “female hormones” (e.g. estrogens). At the start of
puberty, the pituitary gland causes an upsurge of sex hormones so that girls
now produce more estrogen and boys more testosterone.
“growth spurt” is characterized by an increase in the distribution of body
fat and muscle tissue. The body grows taller and heavier and gradually
becomes more adult-like. The adolescent has to become familiar with this new
body and integrate a revised body image.
experience physical changes two to three years before boys (between the ages
of 10 and 13). The most important changes are the development of breasts and
a widening of the hips. The gain in body fat and rapid weight gain may be
seen as a problem for some girls because it clashes with the Western ideal
of a slim female figure.
Boys experience the growth spurt as a broadening of the shoulders and an
increase in muscle strength. Having a masculine body is welcomed because it
brings boys closer to their body ideal. Boys whose bodies do not appear
masculine may experience identity problems.
between physical change and development of identity
changes of the adolescent body are related to changes in identity including
an emerging sexuality. This includes learning to handle sexual desires and
sexual attitudes and values, and integrating all this with feelings and
experiences into a new self-image.
cultural norms determine the extent to which adolescents can explore their
sexuality. In some cultures, adolescent sexual activity is seen as
inappropriate whereas in others it is seen as normal and healthy.
into sexual maturity may increase girls’ concerns about sexual
attractiveness as well as awareness that they may become the targets of
Body image and
cultural ideal hypothesis
by Simmons and Blyth (1987) suggests that puberty brings boys closer
to their ideal body while girls move further away from theirs. A cultural
ideal is that a male body should be big and strong. The ideal female body in
Western culture is a slim body.
ideal hypothesis predicts that, since the cultural ideal for the female body
is being slim, adolescent girls should be more likely to express body
dissatisfaction and resort to dieting than boys. This is supported by
(1996) found that girls in Western cultures are more concerned about their
appearance and express more worry about how other people will respond to
them than in other cultures. Teenage girls want to be seen as attractive. If
their body is far from the dominant cultural ideal of slimness, they may
develop a negative body image and low self-esteem.
suggested by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) holds that Western girls
are socialized to constantly think of whether their bodies and physical
appearances are pleasing to others. A chronic state of anxiety may be
generated by their concerns about maintaining a satisfactory appearance.
(2002) found body image dissatisfaction to be a strong predictor of
depression, eating disorders, exercise dependence, and steroid use among
young people in the USA.
Study to use: