Physical growth and development describe the physical as well as psychomotor changes in an individual. To learn the implications of physical growth and development for the teaching-learning process, children have been categorised into two groups : upper primary school children (10-13 years) and secondary senior secondary school children (13-17 years). We shall discuss each age group in the following sub-sections.
Upper Primary School Children
Children in the lower elementary period, i.e. from 5 to 8/9 years, show relatively slow physical development. A typical child in the primary grades reflects certain physical characteristics. For instance, the girls tend to be slightly shorter and lighter than the boys until around the age of nine, when the height and weight tcn to be approximately equal for boys and girls.
Upper primary students are, on the average, healthier than those younger to them. They tend to resistance to fatigue and disease. Their motor-coordination is better than that of seven or eight years old children.
During the latter part of the Fourth grade, however, many girls begin a sudden growth that tends to continue till puberty. The arms and legs grow rapidly though there is not a proportionate growth in the trunk size. The result is a gangly or all-arms-and-legs appearance.
Bone growth occurs before the growth of associated muscles and cartilages. Children at this growth stage temporarily lose the efficiency of motor-coordination and strength. They appear to be clumsy and sometimes confused as compared to seven and eight years old children.
Girls of this age-group experience pre-puberty developments like breast budding and traces of public hair. In addition to muscles and cartilages, the limbs grow in early maturing females and they tend to regain their strength and efficiency of motor-coordination. Because of this most girls on the completion of their fifth grade look taller, heavier and stronger than boys.
Since boys remain twelve to eighteen months behind the girls in physical development, even the early maturing boys do not start their growth spurt until the age of eleven. By the start of the twelfth/thirteenth year, most girls attain the peak of their growth spurt, while all including early maturing boys continue the slow and steady growth level of late childhood. The girls usually start their menstrual periods by the age of thirteen. For boys, the end of pre-adolescence and the onset of early adolescence as identified by thc first ejaculation, occurs around the age of thirteen which may extend up to the age of sixteen in some cases.
Secondary and Senior Secondary School Students
The adolescence period of development begins with puberty. Early adolescence is a time of rapid physical and intellectual development. Middle adolescence is a more stable period of adjustment to and integration to thc behaviour patterns of early adolescence. Later adolescence is marked by preparations for the responsibilities, choices and opportunities of adulthood. The major changes during adolescence are discussed below :
i) Variability in onset and rate of puberty : Directly related physical developmental change that adolescents must face is the consciousness of sexual identity. This includes the expression of sexual needs and feelings and the acceptance or rejection of sex roles. Puberty is a series of physiological changes that make the organism capable of reproduction. Nearly every organ and system of the body is affected by these changes. The pre-puberty child and post-puberty adolescent changes in outward appearance because of the changes in the stature and proportion and the development of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Although the sequence of events at puberty is generally the same for each person, the timing and the rate of weight gain vary widely. The average girl typically begins pubertal changes around eleven years, one and a half to two years before the average boy. In each sex, however the normal range of getting sexual maturity is approximately six years. Like the onset, the rate of change also varies widely. Some persons take only one and a half to two years to go through the pubertal changes to reach reproductive maturity, while others may require six years to pass through the same stage.
These differences mean that some individuals may mature before others or the same age who may have just entered puberty. The children make comparison among themselves. The tendency to hold maturity in high regard can be a problem for the less matured students. On the other hand, the early maturers are also likely to experience temporary discomfort because they stand out From the less matured majority.
ii) Reactions to puberty : One of the most important challenges adolescents have to face is to adapt to the changes in their bodies. Coordination and physical activity must be adjusted rapidly as height, weight and skills change. The new developments in body must be integrated into the existing self-image. Ncw habits have to be developed. As adolescents become more like adults in appearance, they are expected to, behave more like adults. regardless or their emotional, intellectual or social maturity.
The purpose of puberty is to make people able to reproduce. Thus the adolescent is faced with a new potential that includes increased interest in sexual activity, erotic fantasy and experimentation. Masturbation becomes a regular activity for many adolescents and some adolescents even indulge in sexual acts. The sexual activity necessitates facing the possibility of conflict with parents, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
iii) Early and late maturing : Researchers have long been interested in the possible differences between the children who enter puberty early and those who enter it late. Peskin (1967) demonstrated that early maturers have a harder time at puberty. Youth who mature earlier experience more anxiety and have more temper tantrums, more' conflict with their parents, and lower self-esteem at puberty than those who mature later. But by the time the early matures are in high school, long post puberty and having accommodated its changes, they are more at ease, popular, and mature than are late maturers. The late maturers are still experiencing pubertal changes. If early maturity is an asset for teenage boys, it is a real liability for teenage girls. They
develops breasts. 'They have fewer changes to discuss with peers the physical and emotional
challenges they are undergoing.
Peskin's data suggest that the early mature may need more help in understanding pubertal changes, while the late maturer may need more help coping with being relatively immature and less able to compete in situations where maturity and size are important.
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