Adolescence is a period in the human lifespan between 12 and 18 years that is a transition between childhood and adulthood. During this stage individual experiences many crucial changes in physical, cognitive, social, moral, and personality dimensions. Within these several years, the body and the mind of a teenager are entirely reconstructed and acquire new features as a result of puberty. The development in the organism of a human in adolescence depends on both genetic and environmental factors which might affect the severity of crises that one encounters in the age between 12 and 18.
This stage in human development is regarded by most psychologists as the most difficult and controversial one. Teenagers have to adjust to their new cognitive processes; they strive to ensure peer approval and try to find their decent place in the world. Such a process of understanding oneself imposes moral, behavioral, and psychological conflicts which are often associated with teens. The combination of hereditary and environmental influences signifies the particularities of physical, cognitive, and personality development in adolescence and provides the basis for an individual’s life later in adulthood.
Factors Influencing Adolescents’ Physical Development
The process of physical development in adolescence is manifested in the form of puberty. This is a stage when the body of a child changes into the body of an adult; thus, the function of fertility is advancing preparing an adolescent for reproduction. Usually, this process lasts for several years between 12 and 18 but is observed to vary in different individuals depending on various factors.
Firstly, genetics plays a significant role in the characteristics of the body changes that teenagers experience (Manna, 2014). For example, the time of first menstruation and the beginning of puberty in girls often matches the same age as their mothers’, thus justifying the hereditary influence on puberty. Other genetic factors include inborn illnesses affecting puberty or overall similarities of the body image and complexion between children and their parents.
Secondly, environmental factors impact the timing, duration, and overall characteristics of physical development. Nutrition, ecology, cultural particularities, and emotional well-being have their influence on the way an adolescent will acquire certain features (Manna, 2014). For example, the socioeconomic status of a family will affect the nutrition and diet of children in it; thus, the physical development and the beginning of puberty might differ in teenagers from different social backgrounds.
Besides, adolescence is marked by the growth of body mass in both, boys and girls, as well as muscles, which are more visible in male teenagers. According to Manna (2014), “strength and power rapidity increase in proportion to muscle mass under the influence of hormonal activity” (p. 49). It is vital for a rapidly growing organism to be healthy and active. Therefore, sports and exercise constitute another environmental influence that is capable of contributing to the flow of physical development in young individuals aged 12-18.
Factors Influencing Adolescents’ Cognitive Development
Alongside the intensive physical development, a teenager passes a phase of significant shifts in cognitive advancement. At this stage of life, a person experiences the need to study oneself and understand his or her role and place in the surrounding world around other people. The characteristic features of this period in the human lifespan are the search for independence, as well as the development of cognitive reasoning abilities and establishing connections between abstract notions. This leads to their ability to hypothesize, make conclusions and assumptions about the future, as well as think in the framework of cause and effect. Such shifts in thinking allow for understanding the perspectives and alternatives that constitute the basis for adolescents’ planning of their future.
The teenage period is attributed to such negative notions as substance abuse, irresponsible behavior, or hazardous habits. They are the result of the cognitive adaptations to the new thinking processes due to which adolescents try to find approval among peers and rebel against parents. As Jernigan, Brown, and Dowling (2018) state, various factors cause negative manifestations of behavior in young individuals. These factors include “genetic variation, attributes of the environment, individual experiences, and behavioral traits of the youth themselves” (Jernigan et al., 2018, p. 154).
Smoking, the internet, television, as well as social surrounding, and a type of peers’ and adults’ influences, comprise the environmental factors that might affect cognitive development. However, the extent to which these factors impact an adolescent depends on a family structure and cultural background (Jernigan et al., 2018). Heredity also plays a significant role in cognitive development and determines the speed of advancement and the level of intellectual abilities. For example, a teenager with an inherited mental disorder might be deprived of proper cognitive development. On the contrary, some individuals might be genetically exposed to acquiring multiple talents and be more advanced.
Factors Influencing Adolescents’ Social, Moral, and Personality Development
Social interactions become a priority in adolescence, and young individuals start their life as independent members of society. Such environmental factors as peer approval, family, school, or neighborhood, as well as cultural particularities, significantly influence not only the social but also moral and personality development of a teenager (Specht, 2017). For example, under the impact of peers, an individual learns what is right and what is wrong, thus forming the scope of core values including respect, love, dignity, and others.
Moral development affects the advancement of a personality and contributes to acknowledging one’s identity (Specht, 2017). According to the theory of five traits, culturally-historic factors might also be very influential on personality development. As Specht (2017) exemplifies, the prevalent idea in the industrial countries that adolescents go through the transition between school and university might cause the development of related character traits in an individual.
As for hereditary influences, the predisposition to dealing with the challenges of social life and perception of one’s identity during puberty might be an illustration of the connection between genetics and personality. Also, since the analyzed period in lifespan is acutely connected with sexuality advancement, the psychoanalytic theory of Freud could be applied (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). This theory underlines that inherited traits of personality are decisive in how a person deals with the challenges of maturation and how smoothly one acquires the features of an adult.
In summary, lifespan development involves a variety of changes in the physical, cognitive, social, and personality characteristics of an individual. Adolescence is one of the most crucial and rapidly advancing stages of human life is characterized by the fast growth of the body, the shifts in cognitive abilities, which become more complex, and personality traits forming. The influence of peers, school, family, as well as the activities in which a teenager is engaged, constitutes environmental factors that cannot work in isolation for genetic ones.
The hereditary impacts predetermine the beginning of puberty, the extent to which an individual will develop cognitively, and the crucial personality traits that an adolescent obtains. The understanding of these factors might contribute to the overall perception of psychological advancement in adolescence.
Jernigan, T. L., Brown, S. A., & Dowling, G. J. (2018). The adolescent brain cognitive development study. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 28(1), 154-156.
Manna, I. (2014). Growth development and maturity in children and adolescent: Relation to sports and physical activity. American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2(5A), 48-50.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). Theories of personality (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Specht, J. (Ed.). (2017). Personality development across the lifespan. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.