12 May 2009


Scientists have known for a long time that something happens to young people as they start to grow from immature, highly-dependent children to immature, highly-opinionated children. This occurs around the age of 8-15 for girls and 11-45 for boys. It is during this time of development called "puberty" that tiny chemicals called "hormones" are sent surging through the body when a part of the brain called "Steve" is activated. Many medical books have been written describing exactly what activates this process, some of which are on my bookshelf this very moment. The results of all these flowing hormones include the following:

Bones begin growing at exponential rates. Most notably, the major leg and arm bones are the ones to undergo the most growth. It is estimated that if puberty were allowed to continue unabated, the average basketball rim would be 100-feet high, and the average Caucasian male would still not be able to dunk. Additionally, the walls of the skull thicken for two purposes:

  • To act as a more effective helmet for the clumsiness attributed to learning how to walk in an increasingly different body; and
  • To make it impossible for the voices of their parents to absorb into their brains.

Muscles begin growing to accommodate the bones. Since girls reach puberty earlier than boys, this may explain why the preadolescent boys are afraid of the girls in their class. Not understanding what's going on and having watched too much television, they believe the girls are either becoming a race of female Incredible Hulks or have been exposed to some sort of radioactive sludge (in the form of "cooties").

Metabolic rates increase. The rapid growth taking place in the pubescent body requires a lot of energy. Therefore it takes a lot more food and sleep to keep the body going. Experts estimate the average pubescent female eats twice as much daily as she did between toddlerhood and puberty. Similarly, the average male eats roughly three-and-a-half times as much as a male African elephant. In order to restore the body, they also need to sleep longer and more often. Doctors suggest a continuous pattern of sleep for a 12-year-old from about 8:00AM til noon on their 16th birthday.

The brain begins to mature. For their entire life up until puberty, children are concrete thinkers. Everything they have learned is based on solid, sensory examples. To them, "2+2=4" mostly makes sense when they think of "2 apples plus 2 apples = 4 apples." Puberty, however, begins to mature the mind so that abstract thought is possible. They will be able to look at a more complex math problem, such as "4x + 4 = 28" and, instead of visualizing apples, they can instead form an abstract thought such as "If we have calculators, why do I need to know how to do this?"

Psychological ideals begin to mature. During this awkward, life-changing transition from childhood to awkward adulthood, the pubescent is suddenly finding him- or herself as not just a member of a family, but as a member of society. A boy or girl in puberty is struggling to find his or her place amongst his or her peers, friends, classmates, and other pop music stars. This development into psychological independence leads the pubescent identifying his or her moral standing on important issues (such as whether or not [insert teen idol sensation of the month] is "hot") and his or her perception of reality (such as the likelihood of [insert teen idol sensation of the month] noticing them at the concert).

Peer perception becomes important. A direct result of the psychological development is the need to feel accepted by one's peers. At this point, the pubescent's relationships with friends become more important than even the family relationships. This is where peer pressure comes in to play. Peer pressure can affect a child's actions and decisions relating to clothes, schoolwork, music, drugs, and even how they vote for American Idol finalists.

Reproductive organs mature. This is, of course, the main reason for puberty. Since it is typically a taboo topic and one very embarrassing for both teens and parents, it must be treated carefully and respectfully. If a pubescent has questions, it is best to answer them directly, with confidence, and in a loving manner.

Son: Dad, I have a question about puberty.
Dad: Err...um...ask your mother.

I am kidding, of course. During puberty, it is physically impossible for kids to talk to their parents. In fact, if they were to even attempt it, not only would they be shunned by their entire group of peers, but their very biological processes could surge puberty into overdrive, causing their skin to turn green and their bodies to shoot up into stratospheric heights.

But, you won't need to worry about that: they'll be asleep.

(This article can be found at my Helium account.)

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