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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds DAVID ROSS: Adolescence is a time of really rapid psychological and social change and development. In terms of psychological change, this is both cognitive changes, i.e. changes in thinking patterns, where abstract thinking starts to be developed, as we can see from this quote here. Also creative thinking starts to come in. But on the other hand, the thinking tends to be egocentric as we can see from this quote.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds It’s also a time of very rapid emotional change and emotional development, where there’s– a flip flopping tends to happen rapidly in terms of emotions, from being very happy, elated about something through to being really sad, all in a short period of time. There’s also a strong desire to be accepted by your peers, and a tendency to be very sensitive to criticism. It’s also a very rapid time of change in terms of social development, moving from dependency as a small child, entering at 10 years of age into adolescence, into interdependency, the adult kind of role.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds The building of social capital in which one learns how to behave socially in a way which will set you up to function well as an adult. Also, establishing– the adolescent is establishing personal and social identity. Who are they? They’re growing into their own skin. They’re exploring their sexuality as puberty is happening, and they’re avoiding life and health compromising opportunities, or not, as the case may be.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds Adolescence is also when many life long attitudes and habits are formed, related to diet and exercise such as whether you eat healthily and do good amount of physical exercise each day, or– and/or whether you start using drugs and/or alcohol or tobacco, and whether you are not taking sexual risks or you are taking sexual risks. Risk taking is one of the key factors in adolescence, and it’s actually normal because the adolescent brain is evolutionary and socially programmed for exploration and risk taking. It’s the young people who need to go out and explore the world while they’re still young, and they’re fit, and they’re healthy.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds An example of the importance of peer influence was given in this experiment which is shown here by Gardner and Steinberg. What this shows is a computerised driving game in which the person– they’re in a simulator, and they appear to be driving a vehicle head on towards another vehicle, which is coming straight at them, and they have to get their vehicle out of the way at the last minute. If we start on the right hand side here, this is when an adult was on their own playing the game is in blue, and in green, when they said they had other adults looking over their shoulder.

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds The more negative, the lower down, the safer they were in terms of driving and the less times that they smashed straight into the car that was coming straight at them. And you can see that in general, they tended to drive carefully and not end up in crashes. And when there was an adult looking over their shoulder that’s the green, it didn’t make that much difference. If we then look at the young adults 18 to 22, they’re a little bit more risky, more chances of having crashes, and when somebody was looking over their shoulder, another young adult was looking over their shoulder, that made a big difference.

Skip to 4 minutes and 20 seconds And then you look at the adolescents, 13 to 16-year-olds, not only are they on their own taking much more risk, but as soon as they got other adolescence looking over their shoulder, they are really taking big risks and often the ending up in a crash. So in summary, adolescence is a time of very rapid psychological and social changes, as we’ve seen. It’s characterised by exploration and risk taking. And during this period, peer influence, the influence of people of your own age is really important.

Adolescent development: psychological and social

It’s hard not to notice the physical changes an individual experiences during adolescence. However, as Professor David Ross explains in this step, psychological and social changes are just as profound, despite not being so obvious. Here we consider these changes in more detail, thinking about emotional and social development, and how attitudes and habits formed in this period can affect an individual throughout their lifetime.

As you watch, try to think about your own adolescent behaviours. Can you think of an instance where something you did as an adolescent still affects you today? Do you think this was directly related to the developmental changes you were experiencing? Only share if you feel comfortable doing so.

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This video is from the free online course:

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine