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Semin Adolesc Med. 1985 Mar;1(1):15-24.

Growth at adolescence. Clinical correlates.


Several highly significant changes occur within a relatively short period of time during adolescence. Great alteration in physique, developmental progress in thinking, and psychologic gains toward attaining ego identity take place but not always synchronously. Attention is paid to physical changes because they are visible and are of intense concern to adolescents, but physicians and other professionals should remember cognitive and psychosocial growth are affected by physical growth, and vice versa. Often there is a temporary disequilibrium in the relationship of these three areas of growth, and this can affect one or another part of the developmental pattern. It is therefore necessary to remind ourselves of the diversity of adolescent growth, and of adolescents, when caring for a young patient and be cognizant of growth in areas other than physical. More and more children with congenital or acquired handicaps are living to become adolescents and perhaps adults. Handicaps can be limited to one of the three major areas of growth or involve them all in varying degrees. For example, sickle cell disease, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis may postpone physical growth for a significant period; this lack of pubertal change can affect psychosocial development but usually does not impair cognitive growth. Mental retardation may have no apparent effect on physical growth but can handicap the adolescent's psychosocial development. Growth still occurs in a sequential pattern but often it seems that handicapped youngsters reach a developmental milestone by a series of "detours." Physicians must recognize these lags or differences and try to facilitate progress, promote self-esteem, and provide understanding. Much can be done with anticipatory guidance. Adolescence often provides the opportunity to overcome past damage or, in some instances, to start anew on a more optimal program for physical and psychosocial growth. Young adolescent boys and girls usually look to the physician for factual information and guidance; they long for understanding by an adult outside of the family. If we can successfully fill their expectations, adolescents will be the better for it.

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