Learn to better Understand Children and Youth
Provide more informed and effective support services to young people.
If you work with children in any capacity; from teaching to welfare services or even marketing toys - understanding how children think is a core skill that is required to do your job better and more responsibly.
Note that each module in the Qualification - Associate Diploma in Child and Youth Psychology is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
Learn to Understand Children and Youth
Over the course of a childhood; every individual will be evolving; constantly growing and changing both physically and psychologically.
Physical changes are often relatively obvious (everything gets larger and changes in appearance); but psychological changes are often more subtle. Psychological change is however no less significant.
For anyone who works with children; an understanding of how the child develops through childhood and adolescence is key to being able to do their job. This course helps you to develop that understanding and formulate appropriate ways to deal better with children.
Puberty is particularly critical and often unsettling period in life prior to adolescence. During this time, a rapid sequence of physical changes occurs, resulting in maturation. While the process has been studied, it is still not fully understood.
Changes occur to the Endocrine system (hormones) which directs changes in body composition (muscle and fat content), and the reproductive system. During puberty, there is more rapid growth, sexual developments (e.g. Growth of pubic hair, breasts in girls etc.), change in voice and a range of other changes.
Many psychological changes accompany puberty, such as:
- Parents and friends begin treating you differently.
- Growing consciousness about body image.
- Changes in hormone concentrations contribute to and increase in variable and negative emotions.
- Girls are commonly upset (even if only slightly) by their first period.
- Risk taking behaviours can increase (altered perception of own invincibility).
- Individuals who confront puberty earlier or later than their peers may perceive themselves differently.
- Interest in the opposite sex/same sex for people who may be homosexual or bisexual.
Problems that Arise
There are many problems that can arise during adolescence.
A biopsychological approach to understanding these problems will consider the interaction between biological, psychological and social factors. If an adolescent succumbs to drugs this would be explained as having been caused by the person’s biology (i.e. Genetics and brain processes) interacting with their psychology (i.e. Emotions, state of mind, stresses etc.) together with social situation (e.g. the sort of people they interact with).
Another way of understanding problems (i.e. developmental psychopathological approach) would link early precursors (e.g. earlier life experiences) to outcomes.
Puberty refers to the maturation of primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
Puberty is the result of the brain signalling endocrine (hormone-producing) glands to increase their hormone production and release into the bloodstream. What causes the brain to trigger puberty is not known. However, there are a variety of factors that are known to affect the timing of puberty, which we will discuss later in this lesson.
The hormone changes responsible for puberty tend to begin some years earlier than when puberty actually occurs. They may produce moodiness and restlessness. Girls can start these changes before boys and will appear to mature more quickly at first. After this, boys catch up. By the age of 17, most boys and girls will be young men and women who may be bigger than their parents and are capable of having children themselves. But they will still need support from adults. Growth and development does take up a lot of energy, which is why teenagers often appear to need more sleep, getting up late and so on. This is not just laziness.
The area of the brain that triggers puberty is the hypothalamus, which produces a hormone known as GnRH – gonadotrophin releasing hormone. GnRH is released into the bloodstream and is recognised by the pituitary, a tiny endocrine gland located on the underside of the brain. GnRH signals to the pituitary to produce two gonadotrophins – that is hormones that affect the gonads, or primary sex organs (testes in males, ovaries in females). The pituitary produces and releases the gonadotrophins, luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In females, the ovaries detect the gonadotrophins and respond by producing sex hormones (those that are released by the gonads). IN girls oestrogen, as well as progesterone and testosterone are produced. In males, testosterone and small amounts of oestrogen are produced. The result is the rapid series of events that result in the individual reaching sexual maturity.
Sexual maturation involves the development and maturation of primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Primary sexual characteristics are the sex organs, those parts of a person’s body related to sexual reproduction. Secondary sexual characteristics are those features which distinguish mature men and women from each other, but aren’t directly involved in reproduction. Puberty causes different effects in boys and girls because of the different levels of male and female sex hormones. In boys’ testosterone is the dominant sex hormone, in girls the dominant sex hormones are oestrogen and progesterone. However, the adrenal glands, which are present in both male and female, are able to produce small amounts of female hormones required in boys and male hormones required in girls.
Puberty in Females
The physiological purpose of puberty in girls is primarily to establish the menstrual cycle and develop the breast tissue and mammary glands, in preparation for her becoming pregnant and having children later in her life. The primary sex characteristics for females include the ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina/vulva/clitoris and fallopian tubes. Secondary sex characteristics include lack of facial hair, finer less coarse body hair, fat deposits on the hips and thighs.
At birth, a girl will have all the eggs (ovum) she will ever produce stored in an immature form (known as follicles) in her ovaries. Initially, she will have between 1 and 2 million ova, however from birth the eggs age and die, a process known as atresia. By the time a girl enters puberty will have more like 400,000 ova left.
At puberty, a cascade of sex hormones will cause the ovum to begin to mature in the ovaries and the menstrual cycle, commonly known as the “period” will commence. This first period is known as menarche.
Thus, puberty does not result in the production of ovum, but instead causes the maturation of structures and organs that are already present in the body. These same sex hormones will have a variety of other effects on the girl’s body, causing a process of development toward sexual maturity.
The age at which a girl will enter puberty is highly variable. For example, in the UK, on average, girls begin to develop breasts and pubic hair at around 11 years of age, beginning to menstruate at around 13 and maturation is not usually complete until around 20. Of course, things will vary in different countries, different cultures and so on. In the USA for example, on average, these events may occur a few months earlier. Whilst in the tropics, on average, it will be later. A variety of factors can affect when an individual will enter puberty, including their family background (genetics), their diet and their overall health and exercise patterns.
Psychological changes in females can include:
- Mood Swings/Changes
- Self-image concerns
Physiological changes in females can include:
- Ovaries develop and ovum ripen
- Menarche and establishment of menstrual cycle
- Period pain (dysmenorrhoea)
- Premenstrual tension, headaches, bloating
- Irregular periods or missed periods (amenorrhea)
- Body odour develops
- Skin becomes oilier and acne/spots develop
- Pubic hair
- Underarm hair
- Increase in height
- Broadening of hips and thighs (fat deposited here)
Puberty in Males
Puberty in males does not result in the reproductive cycle seen in girls. The purpose is instead the maturation of the structures and organs already present along with the commencement of sperm production, to enable the fertilization of the female ovum, making the male fertile. The primary sex characteristics of the male include penis, testicles and testes, prostate gland, seminal vesicles and the epididymis.
While breast development and the commencement of the menstrual cycle are indications a girl has entered puberty, for boys, there isn’t one event that signals the commencement of puberty. Some early signs of puberty include an increase in the size of the testes and penis. Sperm production begins and boys can experience “wet dreams” (ejaculation during sleep). Hair will grow and thicken in regions including the armpits, pubic area, face and sometimes chest. The voice will deepen and muscles will develop.
Unlike girls, males are not born with all the sperm they will ever produce. Instead, spermatogenesis, that is the development of mature sperm, is an ongoing, lifelong process that commences in puberty. While a woman’s ovum age and die over the course of her life, leading to loss of fertility, a man will remain fertile until almost the very end of his life. Puberty will result in some or all of the following in boys:
Psychological changes in males can include:
- Emotional changes
- Aggression or anger
- Self-image concerns
- Risk taking behaviours
Physiological changes in males can include:
- Teste and penis growth
- Facial pubic and underarm hair
- Chest hair
- Voice deepens and “breaks”
- Skin becomes oilier and acne/spots develop
- Body odour develops
- Muscle development over the arms, chest
- Shoulders broaden, hips narrow
- Wet dreams (involuntary emission of semen during sleep)
- Increased height
WHY STUDY THIS COURSE?
As professional development - for anyone needing to broaden or deepen their understanding of children and adolescents.
As a transition course - using your past experience as a starting point; to move your career in a different direction.
As a starter course - to develop a high level of understanding about children; with a view to either working in a business that provides product or services to children; or as a foundation for further study beyond this initial course.