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Lecture 1

PSYC 437 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Secondary Sex Characteristic, Endocrine System, Puberty

Course Code
PSYC 437
David Schwartz

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Biological Development:
Why is puberty not just a biological event? Puberty is a complex thing because it is about
how the adolescent reacts to the changes, and how the world reacts to the changes.
Changes that the adolescent and the world may feel uncomfortable with, and they are
certainly changes that people notice.
Western attitudes toward sexuality: uncomfortable and taboo
Common myths about puberty:
Puberty is a time of raging hormones, random fluctuations in hormones, which
have powerful effect on the mood.
-The changes in chemistry are not random and raging, they are very lawful
systematic and logical way.
-In adolescence daily activities have a larger affect on the mood than
hormones. They have larger fluctuations than adults do, that’s why they are
Puberty has a sudden onset, beginning with out warning.
-No, the day you’re born development begins. It sets the foundations for
puberty. And puberty is probably signaled by fat content, it is a gradual
Puberty starts at one specific point in time
-Changes occur over many years;
unfolds across time and different stages.
What happens during puberty?
Rapid increases in height and weight
Primary sex characteristics
Secondary sex characteristics
Changes in body composition (Boys: Boys become bigger and stronger, and girls
get more body fat)
Changes in circulatory and respiratory systems (Becomes much more efficient)
The Endocrine System:
The endocrine system (communication system) involves glands that control
bodily function through production of hormones
Hormones are chemicals that have a very specific impact on bodily structures
Feedback Loops in the Endocrine System:
The central nervous system communicating with glands
What puberty is all about is the set point changing
A set point is established for levels of particular hormone in the body
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Endocrine system monitors levels and releases hormones when levels go below
the set point (Example, thermostat)
Likewise, production of hormones decrease when levels go above set point
HPG Axis and Puberty:
Hypothalamus: monitors levels of Androgens and Estrogens, and communicates
with the pituitary gland.
Pituitary gland: secrets gonadotropins, which are hormones that control the
Gonads: structures that release the sex hormones (testes in males, ovaries in
Essentially with puberty, the HPG axis becomes more active
What drives that change in the set point? (Fat Content).
-If you keep someone’s body fat very low, puberty will have a later onset.
-High body fat does not trigger puberty, because it associates with poor health and
poor health delays puberty.
Adolescent Growth Spurt:
Marked increase in height and weight. Accelerated growth begins early in
Growth A Synchronicity; The rate of acclerration is greater for parts of th body
that are furthest from the center. The legs, arms and heads are larger in proportion
to the torso.
Acceleration occurs earlier for feamels than males.
Impact: Social change, the younger girls are dating older boys.
The first kids to show signs of puberty in class will be first maturing girls and boys.
Other Somatic Changes that Occur with Puberty:
Increases in cardiovascular capacity. Increases are greater for males than females
Increase in body fat and muscle mass
For boys, muscle to fat ratio about 3:1 after the onset of puberty. For girls about
Boys experience more self esteem as they moe toward societal ideal
Girls experience a loss in self esteem as they move away from societal idea
The implications for girls are more challenging
The changes for girls are more threatening (society values thin women, and
puberty goes against that)
Prior to puberty, boys get slightly more depressed than girls. After puberty, girls
get more depressed 2-3 times more often boys.
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