Puberty & Adolescence

95% of human evolution (millions of years) was spent as hunters and gatherers. But in the last 2000 years (a very brief moment in evolutionary time), we've suddenly been forced to live in a civilization among countless other humans, requiring us to get along and act civilized. The only problem is that our hormones have not had barely enough time to adapt to this sudden change in our environment. Thus, our hormones remain practically unchanged since 20,000 BC. Yes, we are still, with respect to hormones, cavemen! Of course we can't act like cavemen. While hormones rage inside us during puberty, we are forced to continue civilized behavior as usual. This can lead to awkward situations when your hormones are telling you to act one way, and your civilized intellect is telling you to act a different way. So without further adieu, lets make some sense of this period of your life called puberty.

Puberty

The time at which your parents become controlling and you go blind from masturbation? Just Kidding! The period of time, during which the secondary sex characteristics develop due to increased levels of sexual hormones, resulting in the ability to reproduce. This generally begins earlier in females, starting at ages 8 to 11. Males usually don't start puberty until ages 10 to 12.

Male secondary sex characteristics

  • Facial hair
  • Chest hair
  • Pubic hair
  • Penis enlargement

Female secondary sex characteristics

  • Breasts
  • Pubic hair
  • Areola

Your reproductive organs (present at birth) fully develop by the end of puberty. Those visible on the outside of the body are termed external genitalia, genital organs, or genitals, while those contained within the body are termed internal genitalia or internal reproductive organs.

Adolescence

The same period of time as puberty. However, in addition to the physical changes that are taking place, the word "adolescence" also refers to the many psychological and social changes that define this period. For example, adolescence may include the drive for independence, a search for personal identity, new relationships, new responsibilities, new feelings or new experiences.

The awkwardness of adolescence
Due to good nutrition and the lower incidence of disease, our bodies are able to start puberty a few years earlier than the bodies of our ancestors. This subjects us to the overpowering effects of hormones before our brain has developed the ability to cope with these effects. Emotions can flare before we learn to control them. The drive for sex, caused by hormones, interrupts our ability to hold a conversation, leaving many boys tongue-tied in the presence of girls.

Growth spurts occurring during puberty don't allow our brain the time it needs to adapt to a larger skeleton or a larger voice box for men. This results in a lack of coordination and the infamous voice crack.

Some effects of puberty are awkward because they evolved for life as a caveman and might be less beneficial today. The sweat glands secrete a substance that gave our ape ancestors an attractive shiny coat and bewitching scent to impress the opposite sex. Today, as we exist in dense populations, we have learned to value clean hygiene. As a result, that old bewitching scent has lost its appeal, and is now considered to be the infamous foul stench known as body odor. Among our ancestors, women started menstruating later and commonly became pregnant as soon as they were able to reproduce, spending more of their fertile years pregnant or lactating. Thus they didn't have to spend the majority of their teen years dealing with PMS or menstruation. In today's society, we aren't able to provide the financial security and parental stability that a child needs until well into our 20's. This, along with an earlier first period, can require some women to experience PMS for nearly a decade before their first pregnancy.

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