This period, which occupies approximately 11 to 19 years of age, is plagued by very significant changes in the person’s development. Significant importance is attached to the social environment, its rules and ways of dealing with and resolving development conflicts.
Puberty is a hinged period that overlaps between childhood and youth. It begins between the ages of 11 and 13, for both girls and boys. In biological terms, puberty refers to the stage at which boys and girls present their sexual development. Then comes the mental and psychological changes needed to cope with adulthood. The adolescent should be distinguished from adults and children. They are not’ big kids’, nor’ immature adults’. They are adolescents who require special attention because they begin a period of high expectations in which they acquire their own identity. If the onset of puberty begins before age 8, it is considered premature. If he does not arrive until he is 14 years old, he qualifies as late. In both cases, consult your doctor. In adolescence, there is a dissonance between which values to accept as one’s own, which ones to reject and which ones to keep from those received by the father and mother.
This period is particularly delicate, and above all individual. Although each person is a different subject, in this phase the distinction is exponential because of the great variability in development in boys and girls of the same age. In the same group, in some homogeneous aspects, boys and girls with a completely childish aspect coexist with others with secondary sexual characteristics fully developed: sexual hair, change of voice, breasts developed, menstruation…. This can cause the adolescent to go through a period of time when he or she is far removed from the reference group model and uncomfortable or displaced. To accompany him at this stage it is essential to understand, or at least try to understand what is happening and, as far as possible, to bring back the difficulties, doubts and even rebellion to the field of normality and naturalness.
The first physiological changes during the onset of puberty occur in relation to height, about two years earlier in girls than in boys. Definitive growth begins around age 10 for girls and 12 for boys. A growth peak is experienced every two years and means gaining between 7.5 and 10 centimetres of height each year. At the highest altitude, changes in bone size are added, resulting in changes in the person’s physiognomy. With the first menstruation, or at the end of a peak of growth, the different male or female hormones begin to act. These hormones cause secondary sexual changes.
Physical evolution in girls, as in boys, includes the appearance of pubic and axillary hair, and changes in coloring in the genital area. Sweat-producing glands are more active, which means more sweating. Breast growth comes in, and sometimes the growth of one breast is more prominent than the other. This should not be a sign of concern because, over time, the size of both breasts will even out. The pubis widens and the hands lengthen. About a year after the start of breast growth, there is an increase in height before the menarche or first menstruation, which makes the woman fertile for all effects. During the first few periods, it is normal for menstrual cycles to be irregular. Thus, they can range from 24 to 34 days, have a duration between 3 and 7 days, and not appear every month. Menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea is uncommon with first menstruation, but usually occurs during adolescence. After the first period, the girl continues to grow both in size and breast size, and pubic hair becomes more apparent and thicker. There are also changes in the voice, although not as noticeably as in children. The entire growth period lasts between 4 and 5 years. At its end, the body is fully developed.
Sexual relations belong to the intimacy of people, and we have no obligation to share them with others except if we want or need to.
With the first years of adolescence comes the sexual maturity of children. Hair appears in the pubic area above the armpits and beard. Besides, change your voice. Children’s bodies prepare for sexual maturity with the production of abundant male hormones, which cause enlarged testicles and darkening of the scrotum. Usually, the first change the child experiences is the appearance of thinning hair around the base of the penis. It happens before a growth peak. If there is a slight increase in the mammary glands during these months, this is not a cause for concern, but be careful to make sure they disappear within a few months. Although the penis can have erections from infancy, the first ejaculation of semen occurs two years after the onset of puberty, or when the penis has grown and reached its final size. It can happen in masturbation, spontaneously with a sexual fantasy or overnight in a nocturnal ejaculation. Later, hair begins to appear in the armpits and face. The larynx grows and makes the nut or “Adam’s apple”more visible, simultaneously with the change in tone of voice, a process that sometimes produces “cocks” when speaking. The duration of growth can be extended for 5 years, during which time the testicles continue to grow, and the penis becomes thicker.
There is an interest in the physical attractiveness of the other.
Also an interest in taking care of and highlighting one’s own appeal.
The tendency to relate and bond with certain people is strengthened.
The psychological function of the sexual impulse takes shape.
The emotional world seeks to express itself through the senses.
Behaviors that tend to obtain pleasure (in relation to the other, or through self-stimulation) appear.
The physical changes suffered during adolescence, together with a growing interest in knowing about sex and, consequently, the acquisition of knowledge and information (many times erroneous) about sexuality, lead to the formation of a new identity. In this period, we leave the family womb to enter and share the world of equals, thus implying the clash of beliefs transmitted in the family about sex and sexuality with other adolescents and the media (including the Internet) provide. Thus, the dissonance between which values to assume as his own, which he will reject and which to keep from those he has received from his parents. All this is manifested through the changing moods, irascibility and certain irrational reactions, which are the expression of the inner conflict he is experiencing.
The onset of sexual intercourse
A doubt shared by adults and young people is when sexual intercourse should be initiated, especially if it includes sexual intercourse, which implies risk of pregnancy and greater risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Of particular concern is how to know the right time to get started. Although, in reality, the beginnings are very gradual: holding hands, a kiss on the face or in the mouth, caresses… However, at the end of the day, the doubt is expressed in knowing what is the right age to begin complete sexual relations. Ideally, that moment should be psychologically prepared and interpreted as an act of responsibility and freedom by both the protagonist and his parents and educators. Therefore, the answer to that doubt cannot be reduced to offering an age for initiation, because the chronological criterion does not always correspond to affective maturity. The response involves an analysis of the situation involving different factors.
First, the adolescent should analyze himself or herself and find out his or her personal attitude to sex, as well as whether he or she is responsible for assuming the consequences of having sex with another person. It must be mature enough to acquire adequate protection to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But you also need to be mature to cope with complex emotional responses, which are very important in defining future behavior. Loving disappointments, falling in love, the need of the other begin.
Then comes the analysis of the other, that is, the person with whom you are going to have sex. You have to be sure it offers confidence and respect. It must be a suitable person with whom to share intimacy, and who is reached from full freedom, not for the purpose of satisfying the desires of the other without knowing one’s own.
Finally, it is worth reflecting on the family, the environment and the group. Sexual relations belong to the intimacy of people, and therefore there is no obligation to share with others details about them, except if you want to do or need to do so, much less follow the advice of others on the exercise of sexuality. Friends are friends insofar as they respect their fellow man and do not lead him to do things he does not want or is not sure he wants to do. Parents will generally find it hard to understand their children as sexual beings. This is understandable but should not force them to restrict their children’s freedom.