Proposed Mechanisms For Explaining Pubertal Effects On Adjustment

Although tests of specific pathways that might be predicted from each of the preceding hypotheses have not been conducted, several pathways have been proposed. One such pathway is the individual diathesis-stress model. This model is based on the idea that it is not puberty per se that is associated with more negative developmental outcomes, but that puberty accentuates the effects of psychosocial factors that exist prior to the onset of puberty. The transitional stress model posits that pubertal development is a biological transition that may be linked with increases in emotional arousal or distress. Finally, contextual models will be described, which focus on the role of the social factors and contexts that coincide with the period of pubertal development.

Individual Diathesis-Stress Model

The individual diathesis-stress model posits that psychosocial vulnerability factors that exist prior to adolescence accentuate the probability of increases in emotional distress in interaction with pubertal development (Caspi & Moffitt, 1991; Dorn & Chrousos, 1997; Nolen-Hoeksema & Girgus, 1994; Sus-man, Dorn, & Schiefelbein, 2003). For example, this model was supported by a longitudinal study of the behavioral responses of adolescent girls to the onset of menarche (Caspi & Moffitt, 1991). Beginning at age 3, girls were assessed with a battery of psychological, medical, and sociological measures every 2 years, through age 15. Systematic interactions between premenarcheal personality and age of onset of menarche were examined. Results indicated that the early onset of menarche magnified and accentuated behavioral problems among girls who were predisposed to behavior problems earlier in childhood. The group that experienced the most adjustment difficulties throughout adolescence was the early maturing girls with a history of behavioral problems earlier in childhood. In order to further test this model, longitudinal studies are needed in which levels of adjustment, the risk factors for poor adjustment, and the pubertal challenges with which these risk factors might interact are tracked as children transition from childhood into adolescence (Nolen-Hoeksema & Girgus, 1994). Studies on puberty have rarely explored the full range of adolescence, including the transition from childhood and the transition into adulthood. As such, many studies miss the onset of puberty for a portion of their samples, which makes it challenging to validate this model.

The Polarity Path

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