The teen years are a time of accelerated growth and development only comparable to infancy, according to Virginia State University professor and child development specialist Dr. Novella J. Ruffin. The process of change from childhood to adulthood begins in adolescence, around the age of 9 in girls and 11 in boys. As children develop and transition into teenagers, their bodies gear up to meet the increasing physical, cognitive and psychosocial demands of growth. According to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Adolescent Health, both boys and girls actually put on body fat before a growth spurt.
Teenagers can grow 3.5 to 4.1 inches during a one-year growth spurt, and 50 percent of their adult weight and bone mass develops during teenage years. With this increase in height, boys gain weight because of increased muscle development and girls due to body fat needed for developing reproductive processes. Hormonal changes in teens as part of puberty is another area in which extra body fat can provide support. Teens also need to sleep nine to 10 hours a night to accommodate the internal processes of rapid growth.
Teen changes in thinking processes due to cognitive brain development include advanced reasoning. As teens develop these skills they begin to think more hypothetically and are able to logically consider multiple options and consequences. As well as concrete reasoning skills, they begin to comprehend abstract concepts like belief systems of spirituality, faith and trust. Teen thought processes also evolve to meta-cognition, or the ability to analyze their own thinking and feelings and to evaluate others' perceptions of themselves.
During adolescence, teens subconsciously develop their identities in areas of personal and occupational goals, belief systems and values. This includes development of autonomy -- often referred to as teen rebellion -- simply meaning that they are learning to self govern and be responsible for their own actions. Teens are also learning to balance intimate relationships that involve developing skills in being honest and caring as well as establishing a healthy sexual identity.
As your teen begins this journey, he will put on extra weight that will be utilized to fuel these areas of growth spurts. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when your child is becoming increasingly self-aware and critical. Explaining what is happening and why can be empowering and liberating, allowing him to maintain a healthy self-image. It can be comforting to know that he will grow out of -- or actually into -- this added weight. This knowledge can give him the boost of confidence he needs as everything begins to change.