People start to develop higher cognitive abilities during adolescence. A lot of research goes into this development topic, and every year there are new statistics and theories. But what kind of process leads to this development, what affects it, and how can we measure a child’s intelligence?
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Biological and Cognitive Perspectives
Adolescence is a very turbulent time for human development. During adolescence, people become influenced by new things, gain new cognitive skills, and sometimes develop harmful behavior. Research indicates that during adolescence human brain undergoes a fundamental reorganization. The gray matter reaches its maximum density first in the primary sensorimotor cortex, and last in the prefrontal cortex. This leads to earlier development of the limbic system and the reward system, causing an imbalance of mature and immature brain (Konrad, Firk, & Uhlhaas, 2013).
According to Piaget’s stages of Cognitive development, concrete and formal operational stages take place during adolescence. The concrete stage starts at age seven and lasts to about age 12. It brings a greater capacity for logical reasoning, which helps with hierarchical classifications and comprehension of class inclusion relationships. For example, this lets the child sort through a pile of change, separating the coins by value. The formal operational stage takes place from age 11 to ages 15 and up. It is subdivided into an almost full and full formal function (Dolgin, 2010). Adolescents develop introspection, abstract thinking, combinatorial thinking, logical reasoning and hypothetical reasoning, and complex problem solving (Frischkorn, Greiff, & Wüstenberg, 2014). For example, a person at this stage can apply the scientific method to solving a problem (Dolgin, 2010).
Influencing Factors and Family Patterns
Children at this age are influenced by their environment. There are many theories about which factors influence the child. For example, Piaget saw children’s cognitive development as an individual effort on the child’s part. Through interaction with people, children can learn that they can have different interests, appearances, and personalities. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky thought it to be a more collaborative effort. He believed that a child could learn best when paired with a more knowledgeable partner and presented with a challenging but not overwhelming problem. This kind of approach can be seen when children tutor each other (Dolgin, 2010).
Family patterns can also affect cognitive development. While a healthy family environment helps the child develop cognitive abilities, dysfunctional or tragic family patterns can lead to serious issues and disorders. For example, children from dysfunctional families are more likely to develop eating disorders with more severe symptoms (Anastasiadou, Sepulveda, Parks, Cuellar-Flores, & Graell, 2015).
Multiple types of tests exist to measure adolescent cognitive ability. Achievement tests gauge the student’s knowledge, and aptitude tests measure how quickly a person can apply that knowledge. One of the most popular achievement tests is the Scholastic Reasoning Test. It is used in millions of American schools to measure college admission eligibility, scholarships, and financial aid. Despite its popularity, the test gained a lot of negative publicity for two factors. The first one is that the test lacks neutrality regarding race, socioeconomic status, and gender. The second issue comes with the fact that results can be affected by prior coaching rendering it a non-objective measure of achievement and aptitude. Although the idea of such a combined test is sound, over-reliance on it can exclude people without the ability to hire a coach. Both aptitude and achievement should be measured to create a more accurate perspective of the individual’s intelligence. Perhaps doing two separate tests designed to be even ground for every student should be implemented instead (Soares, 2015).
Cognitive development during adolescence is one of the most important in the life of a person. The brain of a child is only halfway through its development progress, leading to many factors influencing his or her cognitive process. An unfortunate event at this age can leave lasting effects on the child; therefore, the environment around the child should be supportive and stable.
Anastasiadou, D., Sepulveda, A., Parks, M., Cuellar-Flores, I., & Graell, M. (2015). The relationship between dysfunctional family patterns and symptom severity among adolescent patients with eating disorders: A gender-specific approach. Women & Health, 56(6), 695-712. Web.
Dolgin, K. (2010). Adolescent development, relationships, and culture (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Frischkorn, G., Greiff, S., & Wüstenberg, S. (2014). The development of complex problem solving in adolescence: A latent growth curve analysis. Journal of educational psychology, 106(4), 1007-1020. Web.
Konrad, K., Firk, C., & Uhlhaas, P. (2013). Brain development during adolescence: neuroscientific insights into this developmental period. Deutsches arzteblatt international, 110(25), 425-431. Web.
Soares, J. (2015). SAT wars: The case for test-optional college admissions (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.