Intellectual/Cognitive changes in adolescents
Girl: What is it with these Asian mums huh? The kid is already scoring well in their exams and they are still not satisfied.
Me: Maybe the marks are not high enough or satisfactory enough for the mum?
Girl: But they are scoring like 90 plus percent you know? Should they not be celebrating it? How can the kids not be stressed?
Not like the Western mums. They celebrate every little achievements. Isn’t that better? Like that I’m sure the kids will be motivated to achieve better.
Hmm.. I was impressed. Her comments make sense and I can’t help observe how her thinking has matured just in the span of these last year or so. An 11 year old making such comments means that she’s really thinking and processing what she observes.
Cognition versus Intelligence; The development of intelligence in adolescence.
Intelligence: the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract matters.
Cognition:the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
Cognition basically means the ability to think whereas intelligence means an ability to think at a higher level.
Here I would like to discuss more about intelligence, how adolescents are able to develop that level of thinking where they are able to reason and understand objectively especially with regards to abstract matters.
Concrete thinking versus Abstract thinking
If we want to talk about theories, Jean Piaget is perhaps one of the most well-known and influential child development specialists. According to him, between the age of 7-10, a child’s mental ability is more of concrete thinking or also called “black and white” thinking and adolescence, age 10 – 19 is the stage where the child moves from concrete to abstract thinking.
An example of someone with concrete thinking will look at the Statue of Liberty as just a lady holding a torch whereas someone with abstract thinking will see it as a symbol of liberty or freedom.
The adolescence years are described as remarkable because adolescents move from concrete to abstract thinking,however it must be addressed that this development is affected by many factors such as family culture, quality and quantity of formal education, medical conditions and emotional and or physical trauma.
Scientific and Logical thinking
In addition to the ability to perform abstract mental operations, teens become more scientific and logical in the way they approach problems. This allows them to select the most logical or sensible solution to a problem.
Another complicated thought process that adolescents develop is “propositional thought.” This means they can determine whether a statement is logical based solely on the wording of the statement.
In becoming more scientific and logical, adolescents also become better with their observations and interpretations. “By observing other people’s behavior, expressions, comments, and appearance they can interpret this information and make reasonable guesses about what another person may be thinking, wanting, needing, or feeling. As such, adolescents also begin to wonder about what other people may be thinking about them! Unfortunately, these new cognitive abilities appear at the same time that younger adolescents are struggling with insecurities about their changing appearance, changing identity, and changing life experiences. All of these factors combine to create what Piaget called the “imaginary audience.” (extracted from https://www.gracepointwellness.org/1310-child-development-theory-adolescence-12-24/article/41157-jean-piagets-theory-of-cognitive-development)
With this we cannot push aside that our teens are very much affected by what they perceive, thinking that people are watching and scrutinising their every move thus getting very conscious of how they look and perform.
Why are adolescents impulsive?
One last thing to note though is that “research suggests the frontal lobes of the human brain are still developing until the early or mid-20’s (Stuss, 1992; Thompson, Giedd, Woods, et. al, 2000). The brain’s frontal lobes represent the seat of logic and reason and function to enable people to use good judgment when solving problems or making decisions.
This makes adolescents a group of impulsive people. They are fast to make decisions without realising the possible negative impact of their action.
How can parents support adolescents through this phase called the “storm and stress” phase?
In order to get through this phase well, social support is very important to adolescents.
home; parents being present to listen, understand and support them (Check out my previous blog on POLeS)
in school; teachers not judging and taking it’s child varying abilities;
having positive peers who can accept them for who they are, are all as important.
With great support, adolescents feel safe and are able to handle challenges and manage stress better.
Sign up at this link below for an insight of how I look at adolescents’ development from the angle of SPIES and how parents can support them through this “storm and stress” phase this 11 July 2021 http://tinyurl.com/webinarjuly21