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Healthy Living

Puberty: Onset of Sexual Awareness

Puberty is, technically, the time when secondary sexual characteristics appear. On an average, a child enters a period of accelerated growth just prior to pubescence. With puberty begins adolescence, the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood.

Physical Changes

In Girls:

Spurt in height occurs around 11½ years. First menstrual period occurs between 11 and 14 years. The body fills out, breasts enlarge and hair grows under the armpits and on the pubis. A girl is now physiologically capable of conceiving a child.

In Boys:

Change of voice, increase in size of genitalia and growth of hair in the groin occur. These changes will be completed by 15 years for boys on an average. Physiologically, a boy is now capable of sexual intercourse and impregnating a girl.

In both sexes, the process of puberty begins when the hypothalamus, a part of the lower brain, stimulates the nearby pituitary gland by a chemical factor. The pituitary then starts producing two hormones involved in the sexual development of both males and females. These hormones, known as Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) act on the male and female sex organs. The male sex organs produce testoterone and the female sex organs produce oestrogen and progesterone enabling the development of the reproductive system.


Psychological Changes

Puberty is often considered to be a stormy period because the child suddenly develops a sex drive and its horizons broaden. This generates anxiety and may provoke defensive behaviour, which may, in extreme cases, lead to delinquency. The more common reaction is conflict or defiance towards adult authority as with parents and teachers.

Day dreaming, as a means through which gratification of frustrated needs is achieved, increases during this period of life. It may be difficult to accept, but this is normal behaviour. It is imperative that there is some understanding on both sides. Teenagers must try to appreciate the difficulty which adults experience in understanding adolescents.

Because of the rapid changes inside the body and consequent emotional reaction, the adolescent has a natural inclination to withdraw from all problems and therefore, from others. This is the time when one's innate urge to seek human company can help greatly. The adolescent should make every effort to take part in the social activities of school or college, such as dramatics, sports, debates, social service, scouts etc.

During this period, there is a strong natural desire to read love stories and books that narrate sexual acts explicitly. Though there is no harm in reading such literature, to do so exclusively tends to make escapism attractive. It reduces the determination to face the daily problems and limits the mental horizons.


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