It is a period of profound physical, mental, social, and emotional change and growth, the nature and significance of which the youth himself does not understand. He is often a stranger to himself as well as to others. It is a period of rapid growth in height, weight, and physical strength and of a broadening of vision of the physical and social world.
There is an increasing feeling of personal independence which is mixed with a consciousness of the need—which he sometimes denies and tries to suppress—for companionship and help. It is so difficult for the adolescent to know himself that, ever when offered help that he needs and knows that he needs, he often rejects it. Adolescents Differ in Growth and Development: Adolescence begins with puberty, which is the stage of development at which the reproductive organs mature and the secondary sex characteristics develop. The onset of puberty is not uniform for all youth. It begins at different ages and lasts for different lengths of time. Another factor making for differences is that ‘spurts’ of rapid growth—physical, mental, and social—come at different ages, and there are ‘plateaus’ that are not uniform in time of beginning or in length of duration. The problems due to differences among students in extent of maturity are further increased because girls begin and complete the period of maturation before boys.
Misunderstanding often results from the use of tables showing the ages of maturing boys and girls. In most discussions the average ages of beginning and ending this period are considered to be key points and the fact that there are great differences within as well as between the sexes is overlooked. Nor is there any clear evidence that a student who begins this period earlier or later than the average is ‘abnormal’ in the sense that something is wrong with his development. He may be ‘unmoral’ without being ‘abnormal’. Because of these differences in development and the fears and embarrassments associated with them the secondary school students is in special need of guidance.
Adolescents Differ in Attitudes and Interests: During adolescence there are changes in mental and social characteristics, in attitudes toward school toward teachers, toward parents, toward peers, and toward authority. Interests and attitudes toward literature and society change rapidly, and individuals in the same grade may not have the same interest or the same comprehension.