Research Essay Sample on Puberty

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1142 words
Vanderbilt University
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Research paper
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Usually, puberty begins between ages 9 and 14 in girls and ages 10 and 15 in boys. Up until the puberty age, there is very little or no difference in the physical appearance of both the boy and the girl child. However, upon reaching the puberty stage, a set of changes occur to the young body, and hence causing the body to develop into a sexually mature adult body. While most of the puberty-related changes are primarily physical, a vast range of emotional, social, as well as mental changes are bound to occur as the body transitions from childhood and begins to adapt to maturity. This being said, this paper seeks to explore the manner in which puberty occurs, with particular reference to Jen Piaget's Theory of cognitive development.

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Firstly, the way in which puberty occurs differs from one individual to the next. However, many children are expected to experience puberty anytime between ages 8 and 15. Usually, the variations in the way and the ages at which different children experience puberty are part of the larger pattern of the normal individual variation characteristics, which occur in all the phases of child development. From a biological perspective, the very initial stage of puberty takes place in the brain. During this time, the brain stimulates the release of special types of chemicals, referred to as hormones, into the bloodstream. While the process of hormones stimulation and release involves several steps, two very distinct parts of the brain; the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus are involved.

The first brain part, the hypothalamus causes the pituitary glands to produce and release into the bloodstream, a set of hormones which are known as the gonadotropins. Upon release, the gonadotropin hormones activate the sexual glands which are also referred to as the gonads. The gonads, however, differ in both the male and the female gender. In girls, the gonads are in the form of the ovaries while in boys, they usually are the testes. When activated, the sex organs produce and release crucial hormones into the bloodstream, which in turn, trigger the visible physical changes throughout the body. In females, the ovaries, the primary sexual glands produce the estrogen hormones which essentially lead to visible body changes such as the growth of breasts and the development of hips. The males, on the other hand, have their sexual glands, the testes, producing the androgen hormones, which are responsible for the physical puberty-related changes such as the growth of a beard and the broadening of the chest.

Scientists have it that the development of the body occurs fastest during puberty. In this regard, the body transitions from that of a child into that of a mature adult. For instance, for the girl child, puberty is often related to her menarche or her very first menstrual period. As compared to the girls, the boys usually undergo numerous changes but at a slower rate than the girl child. Physical development aside, the manner in which puberty occurs leads to both emotional and mental changes. During this time, kids will experience mood swings that are involuntary. For example, one's mood may change abruptly, from being confident and happy to feeling distressed and agitated by little things. These emotional and mental changes are attributed to the shifting levels of hormones in the body, as well as the occurrence of other puberty-related changes.

While biologists and scientists seek to explain how puberty works, there are a number of theories, which explore and account for the occurrence of the puberty related changes. According to Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, adolescents, or rather puberty are referred to as a specific stage in life when an individual's thoughts begin to take more of an abstract form, which, essentially decreases the egocentric thoughts. In this theory, Piaget contends that rapid cognitive growth in puberty is caused by an interaction of the brain, experience, knowledge, and social demands. Therefore, owing to the cognitive growth and development of the brain in this stage, an adolescent can think and at the same time, reason, from a broader perspective.

Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development

Piagets theory of cognitive development divides cognitive development into four stages, which are the sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete operations, and formal processes. According to the theory, puberty falls under the formal operational stage, which occurs between ages 11 and 15. As a stage of cognitive development, puberty, as termed by Piaget in his theory, is a formal operational stage that enables a person to think hypothetically as well as welcoming the what-if possibilities as presented by the world. In this regard, the theory argues that a person can utilize hypothetical and deductive reasoning that primarily enables them to solve problems through abstract concepts.

Besides, at the formal operational stage, Piagets theory contends that the biological stages of the brain which occur at the puberty level, primarily enhance the development of executive functions, or cognitive skills which enable an individual to control and at the same time coordinate their thoughts and behavior. The theory takes a biological approach by citing the prefrontal cortex area of the brain as the brain part that is essentially responsible for cognitive development.

According to Piaget's thought, cognitive development in the formal operational stage takes two perspectives, on the nature of adolescent thinking, which are the constructivist and the information processing. Unlike the biological approach to puberty which banks on the emotional and the physical body development in puberty, the constructivist perspective of Piaget's theory, hypothetically contends that the cognitive development of adolescent is relatively drastic and very sudden. On the other hand, the theories' information-processing perspective borrows from the study of artificial intelligence and therefore, accounts for cognitive development in puberty regarding the growth of very specific components of the overall thinking process.

Besides, in the context of the logical quality of the adolescent thought, the theory contends that this logical quality is when individuals at the puberty age, are more likely to solve problems in a trial and error fashion. In this regard, individuals in this stage begin to think as scientists do. They devise plans that are necessarily intended to solve problems while systematically testing the solutions. Finally, the theory contends that puberty relates to the way the individuals think about the social matter. In this case, Piaget argues that it is adolescent egocentrism, which governs the manner in which they perceive social issues. This is also heightened by self-consciousness which is primarily reflected in the sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility.


In conclusion, while biologists seek to account for the physical ways in which puberty occurs, theorists explain the way of puberty occurrence, from a rather, theoretical point of view. Therefore, from a general perspective, puberty relates to physical, a vast range of emotional, social, as well as mental changes which occur as the body transitions from childhood and begins to adapt to maturity.

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