Chapter 11 : Adolescence

How health-enhancing and health-compromising were your patterns of behavior in adolescence? Explain.

Developing healthy habits during adolescence to nutrition, exercise, sleep, and recreational drugs is vital and can have a significant impact on one's lasting patterns in adulthood (Santrock, 2019). Many poor lingering habits are first observed in adolescence (Santrock, 2019, p. 351). In the US, adolescents tend to have diets that are high in saturated fats, and in general, decrease their amount of daily exercise between ages 13 and 18 (Santrock, 2019). Healthy food and daily exercise protect against obesity, depression, and sleep problems (Santrock, 2019, p.352). Getting a sufficient amount of sleep is also key to a healthy life and stable development (Santrock, 2019). Lack of sleep is related to higher drug and alcohol use, lower GPAs, increased anxiety, and behavioral disorders (Santrock, 2019, p. 352-353). Alcohol and drug consumption are often involved in deadly accidents, and tend to be linked to lower academic success (Santrock, 2019, p. 355).

As a teenager, I was fairly healthy. I ate healthy food at regular intervals. I never smoked. I rarely drank. And I exercised daily. However, I slept very little. I would go to sleep at 2am and wake up at 7am during the week, and on the weekend, I often had a similar schedule because of soccer tournaments that started early. It was challenging to finish my homework, exercise, cook and eat good meals, and have a social life. School required that we do volunteer hours as well. It dictated a large portion of my waking life and did not leave enough time for everything else that I wanted to do. I remember feeling like I had to choose between sociability, academic success, physicality (my passion), and sleep. So I chose do away with sleep, following a friend's advice: "you can sleep when you're dead". In my last year of high school, I transferred into a program called 'Independent Studies' which allowed me to take limited hours of classes a week and define my own schedule. I slept much more during this last year, because it freed up the 6+ hours per day that had been spent in classrooms.


What was your middle or high school like? How did it measure up to Carnegie Corporation's recommendations?

The transition between middle school and high school can be challenging. Children transitioning between schools experience the top-dog phenomenon in which they transition from being the oldest and most influential to being the smallest and weakest (Santrock, 2019, p. 363). The social food chain is tormented with hormones as everyone is going through puberty at their own rates (Santrock, 2019). And class sizes tend to be larger and less personal (Santrock, 2019). Carnegie Corporation had an especially potent critique of US middle schools, claiming that they are too large, the curriculum is outdated, and there is not enough internal support for the students (counselors, nurses, etc.) (Santrock, 2019).

My middle school and high school were entirely in line with Carnegie Corporation's critiques. I went to public middle school and high school, and both were large and incredibly impersonal with curriculum that often felt irrelevant. In the middle school, I was unaware that there was a counselor. We learned when one of our peers committed suicide that we had 1 counselor for the school's 800 students. In high school, we got to choose our classes more deliberately and could orient ourselves towards subjects that felt relevant, or towards teachers that seemed exciting. However, I went to high school during the economic crash in 2008. There was a year when we did not have enough desks and had to sit on the floors. Even more teachers were laid off, and so class sizes were sometimes up to 40. It felt very impersonal.

Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

© 2016 by Aviva Rose-Williams.

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