Adolescent Health Factors – Coast Reporter
Understanding adolescent health and development is an important part of ensuring the transition from child to adult. Adolescence is a period of significant change for a young person. It marks a period in which a child moves from being dependent on the judgment and authority of others to learning to make independent and responsible choices. Add in physical changes – not the least of which is a remodeling of the brain’s basic structure in areas that affect logic, impulse control, intuition and language – and you’ll see why this period can be so difficult for a young person.
Adolescence is a time when we develop skills to become healthy adults and when we experiment with activities that can be beneficial to our health. It is also a period of experimentation with potentially dangerous activities. For most, these experiences will not ultimately be harmful, but others will develop behaviors that are harmful to their health in adolescence and later in life. Supportive relationships with families and peers, in schools and in the community can reduce the incidence and harms of risky activities; they can also encourage health-promoting behaviors in adolescents.
The development of adolescents is also influenced by their social environment. The likelihood of engaging in potentially risky activities such as getting drunk or using drugs is higher when people around them do so.
Several themes emerge from research on adolescent development. We see that there will be clustering of behaviors. This means that people who engage in one risky behavior (eg, smoking) are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors (insufficient physical activity or excessive alcohol consumption).
Resilience is a second important theme. It has been used to explain why some individuals and groups overcome obstacles better than others. Resilience is a kind of insulating capacity that enables people to successfully cope or bounce back from adversity or risk. Resilience increases with the number of developmental assets an adolescent possesses.
Developmental assets are described as positive relationships, opportunities, skills, values, and self-perceptions that adolescents need to succeed. These can be external (support, empowerment, boundaries, expectations) or internal (commitment to learning, positive values, social skills, positive identity).
Assets and senses of belonging play an important role in healthy development, including protecting young people from risky behaviors, promoting positive and healthy choices, and building young people’s resilience to help them cope with challenges. and difficulties. The more assets an adolescent has, the more likely they are to engage in positive activities that improve their health and the less likely they are to engage in activities potentially harmful to their health.
Engagement and empowerment are two characteristics that enhance an adolescent’s development. Engagement comes from participating in meaningful, organized activities such as school, music, sports, or community work. Empowerment comes from having safe social spaces where adults allow young people to play a role in planning and decision-making.
Adolescence can be a trying time, but it can also be an exciting and rewarding time of change, action and growth from child to adult.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is Medical Officer of Health for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.