DISCUSS THE PROBLEMS OF PUBERTY IN THE NIGERIAN YOUTH
Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction to enable fertilization. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. In response to the signals, the gonads produce hormones that stimulate libido and the growth, function, and transformation of the brain, bones, muscle, blood, skin, hair, breasts, and sex organs. Physical growth—height and weight—accelerates in the first half of puberty and is completed when the child has developed an adult body. Until the maturation of their reproductive capabilities, the pre-pubertal physical differences between boys and girls are the external sex organs.
On average, girls begin puberty at ages 10–11; boys at ages 11–12. Girls usually complete puberty by ages 15–17, while boys usually complete puberty by ages 16–17. The major landmark of puberty for females is menarche, the onset of menstruation, which occurs on average between ages 12–13; for males, it is the first ejaculation, which occurs on average at age 13. In the 21st century, the average age at which children, especially girls, reach puberty is lower compared to the 19th century, when it was 15 for girls and 16 for boys. This can be due to any number of factors, including improved nutrition resulting in rapid body growth, increased weight and fat deposition, or exposure to endocrine disruptors such as xenoestrogens, which can at times be due to food consumption or other environmental factors. Puberty which starts earlier than usual is known as precocious puberty. Puberty which starts later than usual is known as delayed puberty.
Notable among the morphologic changes in size, shape, composition, and functioning of the pubertal body, is the development of secondary sex characteristics, the “filling in” of the child’s body; from girl to woman, from boy to man. Derived from the Latin puberatum (age of maturity), the word puberty describes the physical changes to sexual maturation, not the psychosocial and cultural maturation denoted by the term adolescent development in Western culture, wherein adolescence is the period of mental transition from childhood to adulthood, which overlaps much of the body’s period of puberty.
Puberty is preceded by adrenarche, marking an increase of adrenal androgen production between ages 6–10. Adrenarche is sometimes accompanied by the early appearance of axillary and pubic hair. The first androgenic hair resulting from adrenarche can be also transient and disappear before the onset of true puberty.
The onset of puberty is associated with high GnRH pulsing, which precedes the rise in sex hormones, LH and FSH. Exogenous GnRH pulses cause the onset of puberty. Brain tumors which increase GnRH output may also lead to premature puberty. The cause of the GnRH rise is unknown. Leptin might be the cause of the GnRH rise. Leptin has receptors in the hypothalamus which synthesizes GnRH. Individuals who are deficient in leptin fail to initiate puberty. The levels of leptin increase with the onset of puberty, and then decline to adult levels when puberty is completed. The rise in GnRH might also be caused by genetics. A study discovered that a mutation in genes encoding both Neurokinin B as well as the Neurokinin B receptor can alter the timing of puberty. The researchers hypothesized that Neurokinin B might play a role in regulating the secretion of Kisspeptin, a compound responsible for triggering direct release of GnRH as well as indirect release of LH and FSH.
Puberty is the time in life when a boy or girl becomes sexually mature. It is a process that usually happens between ages 10 and 14 for girls and ages 12 and 16 for boys. It causes physical changes, and affects boys and girls differently.
• The first sign of puberty is usually breast development.
• Then hair grows in the pubic area and armpits.
• Menstruation (or a period) usually happens last.
• Puberty usually begins with the testicles and penis getting bigger.
• Then hair grows in the pubic area and armpits.
• Muscles grow, the voice deepens, and facial hair develops as puberty continues.
Both boys and girls may get acne. They also usually have a growth spurt (a rapid increase in height) that lasts for about 2 or 3 years. This brings them closer to their adult height, which they reach after puberty.
THE NIGERIAN YOUTH
Youth is the time of life when one is young, but often means the time between childhood and adulthood (maturity). It is also defined as “the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristic of one who is young”. Its definitions of a specific age range varies, as youth is not defined chronologically as a stage that can be tied to specific age ranges; nor can its end point be linked to specific activities, such as taking unpaid work or having sexual relations.
The Nigerian Youth has an experience that may shape his or her individual’s level of dependency, which can be marked in various ways according to different cultural perspectives. Personal experience is marked by an individual’s cultural norms or traditions, while a youth’s level of dependency means the extent to which they still rely on their family emotionally and economically
PROBLEMS OF PUBERTY IN THE NIGERIAN YOUTH
Puberty is the one to three-year process of hormonal and physical change that causes the young person to reach sexual maturity, girls usually entering it about a year earlier than boys. Among other changes wrought by puberty, there are growth spurts that create bigger bodies to manage. For girls hips broaden, breasts swell, menstruation begins, and they can produce eggs. For boys muscles enlarge, voice drops, ejaculation begins, and they can produce sperm. For both male and female there is more hair around sex organs, more body odor, and more active skin glands that can create acne. Now young people in nigeria, as young as ten to twenty-four years are capable of participating in sexual reproduction, which doesn’t mean that they immediately want to fulfill that potentiality. What it does mean, however, is that parents do need to start educating their youths about socially managing sexual maturity and delaying sexual activity in a popular culture that glamorizes looking and acting sexual in every way.
This is no time for a young person to be uninformed about what is going on in their bodies because in ignorance they will believe they are unique and wonder what is wrong with them, when nothing is. This is a time for parents to explain the process of puberty that unfolds for everyone and what changes to expect.
An easy way to do this is for parents to search online for sites explaining puberty, find one that they like, and then read the information with their son or daughter, inviting any questions the young person may have. Normalize the process so the young person doesn’t ‘abnormalize’ themselves.
Youth does not depend on puberty to start. In fact, in most cases the youthful stage begins first. Parents notice the negative attitude (more criticism and complaining), the passive and active resistance (more delay and arguments), and the testing of limits (more seeing what can be gotten away with) that are the hallmarks of early adolescent change. But when puberty does begin, youths transformation becomes emotionally intensified and more complex.
Puberty now creates two problems in one. First, it creates a process problem: how to manage the physical changes that are besetting their bodies. This is the problem of self-consciousness. And second, it creates an outcome problem: how to act young manly or young womanly. This is the problem of sex role definition.
Start with the problem of self-consciousness. For most young people, puberty catches them at a bad time – during the early adolescent years (around ages 9 – 13) when they are separating from the shelter of childhood and begin striving for social belonging and place among their society of peers. Already feeling adrift from family and at sea in this brave new world of more social independence, puberty demonstrates how they are also out of control of their body.
Developmental insecurity and early adolescence go hand in hand. For most youth, puberty is the enemy of self-esteem. It changes how they look at a time when physical appearance becomes more important for social acceptance and social standing. As body shape and characteristics alter, they feel more vulnerable on that account, whether they are physically maturing too fast or not fast enough. This is the period when self-examination is microscopic, when any new blemish can be a source of misery, when it takes much longer to “get ready” to go out, when what to wear and how to groom absorb protracted attention.
At home, parents must remember that the changes of puberty are no laughing matter. The rule for parents is there must be no teasing, no joking, no making fun of self-preoccupation, physical appearance, bodily change, or choice of dress. There is enough of this torment from peers who are all suffering from similar insecurities themselves. Early youth is an age of intolerance, where perceived differences or departures from the dominant or desired norm are not treated kindly. Now a young woman or young man can be teased and picked on for not looking womanly or manly enough. A painfully self-conscious early adolescent can take this social cruelty very personally. “What’s wrong with me?” “I hate how I look!” “I’ll never fit in!” Self-esteem can plummet when being teased causes a young person to become self-rejecting. Or there can be a vulnerability to rumoring that can come from appearing so mature so young – peers gossiping that because you look so sexually mature you are prepared to act that way. So now you have a sexual social reputation.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS OF PUBERBY IN N IGRIAN YOUTH
After puberty, young women who are not deemed attractive enough by their peers, and young men who are not deemed aggressive enough by their peers, can feel punished by being told and shown how they are not measuring up – girls for being too fat, boys for being too weak. Hopefully, at this juncture, parents can help their son or daughter escape the pressure of these dehumanizing sex role definitions by explaining a more healthy way to grow. For example, they could say something like this.
“Don’t pay too much attention to what the popular sexual stereotypes have to say about how you should be because when it comes to appreciating human variation, they’re very restrictive. The truth is, there are as many good ways to be a woman as there are women. There are as many good ways to be a man as there are men. And your job is to discover and develop a good way to be womanly or manly that fits and fulfills the authentic person you want to become.”
A final word needs to be said about early puberty, a reality that affects girls a significant number of girls. When puberty begins prior to the usual onset of young child (around ages 9 – 13) it can put the girl child especially at serious disadvantage.
1) Not yet ready to separate from childhood, altered appearance makes it look like she is. Wearing a bra and menstruation mark her as physically older than is psychologically the case.
2) In consequence, she is now physically out of step with most of her peers and to a painful degree can be socially set apart and feel lonely. Maybe she starts associating with older girls with who she shares more physical similiarity, and now older social pressures come to bear.
3) She can become sexually suspect based on her early maturing body — envied and teased by other girls, joked about by male peers, and become the object of unwanted sexual attention from older boys. Even adults can look at her with suspicion, censoring her for acting so sexual by appearing so womanly at such a young age. How older she looks is how old she is treated.
4) Now, like it or not, her journey to young womanhood has begun because now she starts wondering and worrying about whether her body will approximate the ideals of sexual body type portrayed in the media that pressure her to resemble the popular icons that are paraded in this cruelly exploitive world.
5) And of course she feels anxious as her body changes in ways that are beyond her young power to control.
In a general sense, the conclusion of puberty is reproductive maturity. Nigerian youths should be encouraged and be enlightened about the rhetoric about puberty stages and development. Criteria for defining the conclusion may differ for different purposes: attainment of the ability to reproduce, achievement of maximal adult height, maximal gonadal size, or adult sex hormone levels. Maximal adult height is achieved at an average age of 15 years for an average girl and 18 years for an average boy. Potential fertility (sometimes termed nubility) usually precedes completion of growth by 1–2 years in girls and 3–4 years in boys. Stage 5 typically represents maximal gonadal growth and adult hormone levels. in a nutshell if the solutions stated above are applied, then problems of puberty in the Nigerian youth can be a thing of the past.
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