Adolescence is a hectic and eventful time, something popular culture has deeply internalized. It is inevitable to think of a teenager as that emotionally unstable person who is in a deep but uncertain search for his identity.
This is a fairly close but incomplete description of adolescence, as the changes that occur during puberty are varied and involve not only the emotional aspect, but also the cognitive and social aspect.
Then we will explore what psychosocial changes are in adolescents and what consequences they can have on their lives. Read on if you want to find out.
What are the psychosocial changes in adolescence?
Psychosocial changes in adolescents are all of those variations that occur in the way we think, feel, and interact with society and that are experienced as we enter puberty.
Adolescence is a period of many transformations that manifest themselves in the physical and psychological development of the individual. Because these changes are so sudden and confusing, teens often feel confused and even scared by the new experiences they are having.
One of the leading researchers on the changes that occur throughout development, not just in adolescence but throughout people’s lives, is psychoanalyst Erik Erikson.
Thanks to his work, we know more in depth what happens during adolescence from a psychosocial perspective, although it is worth mentioning that his findings are quite old and since then new discoveries have been made in About this step.
Below, we’ll talk in depth about the psychosocial changes that teens go through during this hectic time in their lives. Generally, these changes can be divided into three broad categories: cognitive, emotional and social.
1. Cognitive changes
Adolescence is the period of development of people when, according to the theory of cognitive development of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the last stage of his model is reached: the stage of formal operations. That much, the adolescent acquires advanced mental abilities, separating him definitively from childhood.
One of the most remarkable is the ability to reason in the abstract. As they approach the age of twelve, adolescents are able to reflect effectively on things that are not here and now. This ability so natural in adulthood is something which, if it exists in previous ages, is more modest in childhood. Abstract reasoning is one of the most important skills not only in adolescence but also in adult life.
Another of the most important cognitive advancements is the ability to use logic more accurately and independently of their desires and feelings. Before the age of twelve, children get more carried away by their emotions and find it difficult to keep their cool and act rationally. At puberty, cognitive abilities increase markedly, although this does not appear to be the case since they also overlap with the emotional instability of these ages.
Finally, it should be mentioned that adolescents too they start to use skills like deduction well. Because of this and the other two skills we’ve discussed, it’s common for new interests to start emerging in adolescence related to aspects like morality, ethics, or the role they play in the world. .
2. Emotional changes
One of the best known facts about adolescence is that hormones take control of the body, inducing a very varied state of mind.
Added to this is the fact that the adolescent changes stage of school to go on to secondary school, a place where interaction with other adolescents can be the scene of multiple conflicts and tensions. All of this is the perfect cocktail for the teenager’s emotions to come true, feeling them much more pronounced than when they were children.
Among these emotional changes we can highlight:
2.1. Emotional instability
It is well known that one of the most notable characteristics of adolescence is its multiple mood swings. The mood of adolescents is very variable. Young people of these ages can move from cover to cover in no time.
It is not uncommon for a boy to get up very lively, then be a little discouraged at lunch, and, after dark, thoughtful and silent. In other cases, the mood fluctuates over the days, going through times of sadness and times of joy with no apparent significant cause.
2.2. Acquisition of empathy
Without trying to generalize too much, boys and girls tend to have a tendency to be egocentric. The reason is that they find it difficult to understand and interpret other people’s emotions, and put themselves in their shoes.
However, in adolescence, boys and girls develop some empathy, even if it does not necessarily show it. Most adolescents are able to understand the effects of their actions on others much more effectively than when they were children.
2.3. Insecurities and feelings of uncertainty
Adolescents experience puberty as a time of great uncertainty, hormonal, social and emotional.. This means that, not knowing what will happen next and not being very clear about their role in life, they have a constant feeling of insecurity.
At the same time, the insecurity causes the changes to be perceived as more threatening and confusing than they are, causing the boy to fall into a loop of very intensely experienced negative emotions. Fortunately, it is only a matter of time before you feel like you have more control over the situation, as the insecurity subsides as it matures.
3. Social changes
Finally, we can notice that adolescents go through a number of changes related to the role they play in the world and the way they interact with others. Among the most notable social changes are:
3.1. Find your own identity
Before the age of twelve, identity is a poorly thought-out aspect for boys and girls. They may feel identified by labels regarding their sexual, cultural, or family identity, but they don’t stop to think about it. However, once puberty begins, identity becomes something of a lot of thought on the part of the teenager, so much so that one could say that he becomes obsessed with it.
The adolescent tries to find himself, to define who he is, to build an identity that differentiates him from others, that makes him unique. That is why at these ages, new experiences are attempted, assuming signs of identity like those shared by certain urban tribes. Usually, these behaviors are temporary and not a problem, and over time they will emphasize both personality and self-identity.
3.2. Desire for independence
During childhood, it is entirely up to parents to do everything. In early adolescence this changes, as the adolescent is already able to do more things for himself and, in addition, he wants to completely get rid of his dependence on his parents.
It is at this age that the desire to become a more independent person begins, which manifests itself both in doing more things on his own and in his aggressive attitude, even arguing with parents so that ‘they won’t be around for that long. .
It is not something to worry about at first. It is normal for adolescents to exhibit difficult behaviors and have a quarrel with their parents, although if it means a serious alteration in family life, they should see a psychologist specializing in adolescence to assess the possibility of a mental health problem or disorder.
3.3. Identity and sexual orientation
One of the most important changes in puberty is everything to do with sex and intimate relationships. Hormones, as we have mentioned, take control of the body and it is almost inevitable that certain physiological reactions will occur related to a series of very powerful emotions which cause teenagers to change their interests and ways of acting, thinking a lot about sex.
For that it is normal that it is in adolescence that we realize what our sexuality is, because it is in this period when the sexual arousal occurs. Boys and girls who are interested exclusively in people of the opposite sex will find that they are heterosexual, whereas if they are interested in the same sex, they will see that they are homosexual. If they like boys and girls, then they’re bisexual.
Although much progress has been made in the acceptance of sexual orientation, today, many gay teens fear social and family rejection when they come out of the closet.. Even in seemingly more open-minded institutes, it is common for homophobic behavior to occur among peers, attacking gay or bisexual boys who have not even disclosed their sexuality because they still have doubts about what is happening to them. attracted.
We should not ignore the reality of asexual people either. Unlike heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual people, asexual people do not experience sexual attraction, and lack of sexual attraction and variation in other orientations can be considered but there is no sexual desire.
Since they are always a very low visibility group, asexual teens, far from realizing that they are, may think they have a problem with arousal or that something is wrong. This is why sex education and the explanation of all sexual realities is so important.
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- Neinstein LS. Adolescent health care: a practical guide. 5th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2009
- Martín, M. (2015). Psychosocial Changes in Adolescents Today: Impact of Social Media Use.