Background reading material by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. for Year 1 Semester 1 PPSD session on 18th October 2006



Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is rapid, complex, and difficult change that can go wrong. It is part of the teenage period defined as ages 13-19 years. It is also part of youth defined as between puberty and the age of 40.


Puberty is the period when gonads are sufficiently developed to allow reproduction to occur. Puberty in males is the appearance of the first sperms and in females it is the first menstruation. In both genders attainment of the age of 15 years is considered by Islamic Law to automatically define puberty even if the biological signs have not been seen. At puberty a person becomes a legally responsible adult. Physical growth may not correlate with emotional and intellectual development and this is a source of problems.



Spermache marks puberty in males. It is accompanied by the pubertal growth spurt and appearance of male secondary sexual characteristics (testicular enlargement, penile enlargement, sexual hair growth, voice changes, muscle enlargement, regular frequent erections with ejaculation). These physical changes are accompanied by behavioral changes.


Physical changes in females are more dramatic. Thelarche is development of breasts. Puberchy is development of pubic hair. Menarche, the 1st menstrual period, is the legally accepted definition of puberty. Female secondary sexual characteristics include breast development, sexual hair growth, and increase in body fat. Other changes include changes in sensory organs, and changes in functional organs. Females experience an earlier pubertal spurt. There is wisdom in this because females start their reproductive careers earlier.



Among the accompanying behavioral changes are intellectual and psychological changes, emotional changes (moodiness and depressive effects). Adolescence is a time of tension and contradictions. The adolescent is physically an adult who could even start a family. He feels independent but cannot live without dependence on parents. His behavior is impulsive and he tries to rebel against childhood restrictions but is yet unsure of what roles to play: childhood or adult roles? Acquisition of abstract thinking gives the teenagers more powerful reasoning abilities and they feel very intelligent. They become intellectually arrogant reasoning things out and acting on erroneous conclusions. They are often wrong in their reasoning because they lack wisdom and experience.


THE YOUNG ADULT (early adulthood)

Physical growth essentially stops at the age of 21. Then the period of young adulthood starts and ends at the age of 39. It is characterized by optimal health status, maximal energy, and ambition. It is a period of starting a career and a family. It can also be a time of stress and tension as career and family are balanced. It is a period of balance between cognition and emotion, idealism and pragmatism, moral living and hedonism.



The problems of teenagers and adolescents are problems of a rapid transition. They arise as discordance between biological maturity on one hand and psychological and emotional maturity on the other. Other problems are delayed puberty, and precocious puberty, growth anomalies. Youths have a lot of energy which they may expend in harmful activities if they make wrong choices.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. October 2006