The transitional period between childhood and adulthood of an individual of approximate age frames from 13 to 19 is defined as adolescence. This period has been analyzed by various psychologists such as Freud, Miller, Ajzen, Piaget, Erikson, Marcia and many others. Consequently, there exist numerous theories which prove that during adolescence, all persons undergo many changes, which influence not only their appearance, but also thinking, memory, emotions, morality, behavior, and social relations (Milller, 1995).
Speaking about physiological changes, it is important to highlight the physical growth of the whole organism, the puberty, which is closely connected with the hormonal changes, the changes in the brain, especially in its frontal lobes, which are responsible for adult decisions, emotional control, planning or “human wisdom” as Todd Clements called it in the interview “What Is Inside the Teenage Mind?”. Therefore, adolescents appear to be more impulsive and usually tend to live for today rather than start planning their future or solve problems connected with sexual behavior. Some proofs of such behavior caused by the above mentioned changes can be teenagers’ pregnancy, homosexuality, drugs abuse, eating disorders, and depressions that are more often met among teenagers than adults. This fact proves again that adolescents are impulsive and sensitive.
Cognitive changes are also very important in the adolescent’s development. In order to analyze these changes, it is necessary to pay attention to Piaget’s theory, which describes the formal operational stage characterized by the ability to think abstractly and combine different things in a sophisticated way. According to his theory, each adolescent “possess the mental structures required for formal reasoning” (Day, 1981). For instance, individuals can think creatively, do mathematical calculations, analyze the outcomes of some actions, become more proficient in strategy use; the memory of the teenagers starts improving.
As it was mentioned above, the emotional control of the adolescents is much weaker than the one of adults. Consequently, it is essential to pay attention to the socio-emotional and socio-cultural changes in their minds. Hence, it is timely to analyze Erikson’s and Marcia’s views on the identity development. Erikson regarded ego identity as “sameness over time, inner coherence” while Marcia basing on the notion of the adolescent identity crisis versus role confusion has marked out the ego identity statuses (Schwartz, 2000).
Consequently, the researches prove that the adolescents meet the problem of self-definition and finding out who one is and where one belongs to in the society and culture. Therefore, the adolescents get self-esteem, which usually drops in the beginning and steadily rises during the teenaged years; define themselves in terms of masculine and feminine traits and in terms of ethnic or cultural identity. The moral development of a person also usually takes place in adolescence. Kohlberg was the one who stated that moral reasoning of a person in the adolescent period is influenced on three levels: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. Consequently, apart from cognitive role-taking, social environment appears to be of high importance for the moral development. Self- identities together with morality and social skills development usually predetermine the adolescent friendship, which quite often appears to be loyal, stable, and intimate (Berndt, 1982).
Though the abovementioned changes are common for all adolescents’ development, some researches prove that there are some differences regarding male and female representatives. The physiological differences caused by prevalence of different hormones are the most obvious. Another difference is that according to some researches, girls appear to be more vulnerable and exposed to depressions or other emotional problems than male representatives. The other researches show that girls are less confident about their intellectual abilities than boys. The other researches connected with the identity status showed no gender differences (Schwarz, 2000).
To sum it up, it has been evidenced that different forms of thinking can be regarded as the main difference between the adolescents, adults, and children. Since such factors as gender, parents’ behavior, and social environment have impact on adolescent development, it is important for parents and teachers to bring them into view by teenagers’ education.