Adolescence is often considered a time of confusion, rebellion, and problems. While this can occur, most people emerge from adolescence without any problems and successfully navigate the changes that accompany adolescence. Researchers do seem to agree that there are a lot of changes that take place during adolescence, but it does not always mean that it is an unpleasant time in the lives of humans (Santrock, 2011). As children enter adolescence they will experience neurological, hormonal, and physical changes. It is also important to consider the psychosocial development of adolescents and how it can be influenced by these biological changes as well as the environment that the adolescent is experiencing. Many of the changes that adolescents experience are the result of a combination of factors and the interaction of biology and the environment.
Many times the focus on neurological development is during the early childhood years of development. Such rapid changes take place during early childhood, it is many times the focus of clinicians and academics, but very significant changes also take place during adolescence as well (Rutter, 2007). One of the most interesting neurological changes that are observed in adolescents is that the connections between neurons continue to be refined through pruning (Rutter, 2007). The amount of brain matter tends to increase throughout childhood, but a decline in grey matter is found in adolescence due to pruning of the synaptic connections (Rutter, 2007). Pruning is typically discussed as a major event that occurs in early childhood after the proliferation of connections made during infancy (Santrock, 2011). Research indicates that significant pruning and refinement of synaptic connections also occurs during adolescence (Rutter, 2007). As with the pruning that occurs in childhood, the connections that are not utilized by the adolescent are pruned while areas of the brain that are utilized continue to strengthen connections (Rutter, 2007).
In addition to the changes between synaptic connections, brain structures also set the hormonal changes that occur during puberty into motion (Rutter, 2007). These hormonal changes that are set into motion by the brain are responsible for the sexual maturity that is achieved during adolescence (Rutter, 2007). It has been suggested that the increase in activity in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, as well as the adrenal gland which causes increases in cortisol, can interact with stress to cause depression and other psychological disorders (Gunnar, et al., 2009). Gunner, et al. (2009) indicate that adolescence can be a time where people are at significant risk for the development of psychological disorders. While many adolescents will emerge from adolescence without developing a disorder, it is an important time for parents, clinicians, and educators to watch for signs of potential disorders that can develop.
In addition to these...