In girls this period begins at about twelve years of age and lasts ten years. In boys it begins at about fourteen years of age and lasts for a varying period, from seven to ten years. During this period. important changes take place in the body and mind of the child. These changes are the characteristics that distinguish the grown man or woman from the child. During the period of adolescence growth is more rapid than at any other time except during the first two years of life. The rapid growth may bring special stresses which need to be met by considerate understanding and wise information.
The muscles develop somewhat more slowly than do the bones in this period. For a while it was thought that this was responsible for “growing pains.” Now itis recognized that these pains are usually associated with rheumatic conditions. The appearance of so-called “growing pains” is an indication for the doctor to look for signs of rheumatic disease and especially for rheumatic fever.
Once girls during the period of adolescence became pale, thin, and anemic. The condition was called chlorosis and was believed to be a part of the change from childhood to womanhood. Now it is recognized that the habit of putting the girl at the time of adolescence under control, so that she did not get out of doors much, wore heavy garments, and was otherwise deprived of sunlight, exercise, and proper food, produced in her a secondary anemia. Thus with the coming of the modern attitude toward women there has been practically a disappearance of the condition called chlorosis.
There are four critical periods in the lives of women – birth, adolescence, marriage, and the climacteric. In each of these critical periods the woman needs the best advice that medical science can give as to the changes that are taking place in her body. The adjustment of the body of the growing girl to the manifestations of her sex that become apparent at this time is especially difficult. The first few years may be marked by irregularities and severe symptoms. Any departure from the normal demands special study.
Especially important is a recognition of the extent to which the changes that come at this time in the growing girl may affect her mental life. Extraordinary unhappiness, distress, or inability to sleep should have special consideration from the mother and may necessitate consultation with a doctor. The normal girl sleeps well, eats well, enjoys companionship, and is happy. The manifestation of a desire for seclusiveness is an indication that something is wrong. It is not natural for young girls to be constantly by themselves.
Such symptoms as undue sensitiveness or negativism, which most parents would call pure cussedness, are significant. Whenever a growing child is refractory and opposes every possible suggestion, the situation needs study.
The growing boy in adolescence also needs advice as to the problems that confront him. The appearance of interest in sex, the changes in the voice “which sometimes arouse ridicule, and the mental attitudes developed at this time may mark the child’s entire life.