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The Different Outside Influences Affecting Brain Activity

  • Category: Science
  • Subcategory: Biology
  • Topic: Brain
  • Pages: 7
  • Words: 3347
  • Published: 26 October 2018
  • Downloads: 11
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The information given is for a leaflet written to the NHS, on the process that family members may go through during adolescences and adulthood. How neurological changes can affect an adolescent’s view of themselves and what crisis may emerge during adulthood, including any key events that may be experienced during adulthood.

One structural change in the brain during adolescence is when synapses pass neurotransmitters or “chemicals” to the receptors of nerve cells, which then pass through to other nerve cells. This is especially important to teenagers because they experience a flood of synapses (Chechik, Meilijson and Ruppin 1759). During adolescence, a typical teenage brain goes through synaptic pruning, which is when the brain removes synapses and nerve cells that are not being used (Fisher, 2017). Applying this to teenagers could be picking up hobbies or learning a new language but not practising it after a long period of time and this is when synaptic pruning takes place.

The two brain regions related to change during adolescence are the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the frontal lobe and is involved in many higher cognitive functions such as forms of judgment and control of impulses and emotions. The nucleus accumbens is the area of the brain that seeks pleasure and reward. This region of the brain is also responsible for risk taking (Edmonds, 2015).

Increased sensitivity to the limbic system has been linked to teenagers feeling self-conscious. Female teenagers are constantly trying to live up to unrealistic beauty standards that society is pushing onto them, from trying to look like the prettiest model on the cover of their favourite magazine to altering their looks on social media to impress others. Social media “influencers” now have their own brands of products to make teenagers believe if they buy it then maybe they’ll look like that person. Unrealistic beauty standards has lead to girls as well as boys to having low self-esteem and depression which then leads to more serious issues such as eating disorders, dieting and anxiety (, 2001).

Teenagers are constantly feeling self conscious; teenage girls feel self conscious when they compare their body to others, but teenage boys use other people to build their strengths and self-esteem. Self-esteem is caused by many factors such as relationships, thoughts and experiences. One of the most common factors is puberty and development. During puberty, the body is going through a lot of changes; getting pimples, growing hair and growth spurts may affect the way teenagers perceive themselves. Not all bodies develop in the same way or time, therefore if a teenager is starting later or sooner than their peers, they may feel like they don’t fit into society or their friendship group. School and family is another factor, parents may say judgemental statements towards a teenager and this could be taken negativity as it affects the way teens view themselves. Other students in school may say harmful things and tease one another, which contributes to self image (Trinh, 2013).

Teenagers are more likely to take risks and be reckless due to their hormones developing. Although the nucleus accumbens is responsible for risk taking, testosterone plays a part in risk taking. Testosterone is a sex hormone that is mostly common in males, during puberty testosterone is responsible for growth spurts, deepened voice, facial and body hair growth, muscle development and an increased sex drive. This is important as male adolescences are more interested in sex than females. The higher the amount of testosterone, the more likely a person is to take risks (Anawalt and Matsumoto, 2014). This being said, even though testosterone is mainly linked with males, it can be found in females too, just not as much as males. The female sex hormone is called oestrogen and it is responsible for the start of the menstrual cycle, fat storage in the hips and thighs as well as accelerating metabolism. An imbalance of testosterone can be found in females, this could lead to an increased sex drive, like males. This could be linked to adolescent females having unprotected sex which leads to teenage pregnancies (Munoz, 2013).

Teenagers have a higher chance of risk taking behaviour due to the sex hormones that are developing during puberty. Male adolescences have more testosterone, which links to risky behaviour – the more testosterone the more likely the person is the take risks. However, this can also be found in females. A test was done by Peper to analyze risky behaviour in both sexes; it was done by having the participants press and button that would inflate a balloon. Each time the balloon inflated, the participants would earn money. The participants had options to “cash out” and leave with the money they earned or they could keep inflating the balloon to get more money. If the balloon was inflated to the maximum amount that it could be inflated, it would explode which then the participants would lose the money they earned. Peper and his team found that the amount of money earned and balloon explosions depended on the levels of testosterone in the participants. They found that boys and girls with higher testosterone levels led to more risk taking behaviour, but male participants tended to explode more balloons whilst female participants earned the more amounts of money. “In boys, higher testosterone may lead to more sensation seeking – the thrill of pumping the balloon further. In girls, however, higher testosterone may lead to more long-term advantageous risk taking. “Peper states (Munoz, 2013).

Oxytocin is another hormone that can affect behaviour in adolescence. Oxytocin is also known as the bonding hormone which allows production of lactation in females, it also affects maternal behaviours and in group bonding (MacGill, 2015). Oxytocin increases positive attitudes of the in-group, but may be the cause of feeling negatively about the out-group. People are less likely to accept members of other ethnicities and foreigners, or a person that dislikes whatever the in-group does; such as sports teams. Oxytocin is responsible for creating prejudice views to the out-group which can lead to violence (De Dreu et al., 2011).

A test was conducted in which participants could dishonestly report their performance to benefit their own in-group. The experiment allowed individuals to lie anonymously for the benefit of their own groups. This showed that healthy males that received Oxytocin lied more to benefit their own group, causing dishonesty towards the other group. The effects from this test were that lying would have consequences within each group, shaping distrust and that collaboration can turn into corruption (Shalvi and De Dreu, 2014).

Serotonin is another hormone that can be linked to teenagers. It regulates anxiety and mood; it is responsible for controlling sleep and wakefulness. Because of the development of serotonin, teenagers are more likely to stay up later at night and struggle to wake up in the mornings – which is commonly blamed on teenagers playing on video games at late night and not being able to concentrate on school work in the morning. Most teens product too much Serotonin or too little, when teens are exposed to light it causes an increase of Serotonin, which can be linked to playing video games late at night or being on their phones texting. Stress makes Serotonin levels decrease, which causes teens to wake up moody. Serotonin is twice as common in girls as it is in boys. Too much Serotonin can act like a drug, as it makes people feel happy. This can be dangerous as people want to overdose on Serotonin which can cause Serotonin Syndrome if used in conjunction with other medications (Nielsen, 2013).

There are two theories that will be researched in this essay, Freud’s theory and Kohlberg’s; both theories are on the topic of morality. Freud theorised that the mind is split in to three parts; The ID which is pleasure oriented and focuses on what feels good at the time regardless of the consequences. The superego, which focuses on what the right thing to do, based on the environment around them – Freud believed this is where morality was located. And the ego, which is the decision making component, it operates on what we can do realistically in the world, attempting to satisfy both ID and superego (Castelloe, 2013).

In 1904, Hall hypothesised storm and stress in adolescences, which refers to the decrease in self-control in adolescents as well as the increased sensitivity in adolescents to various stimuli around them. The three ways in which an adolescent could show storm and stress behaviour could be between three ways; conflict with parents, mood disruptions and risky behavior.

Bandura (1963) criticized Hall’s hypothesis by showing that most adolescents do not consider their adolescent years as “stormy”. Bandura stated that the mass media rarely presented adolescents as being anything but stormy, which is unrealistic. He concluded that expecting adolescent to be stormy often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (Roundy, 2017)

Hollenstein and Lougheed (2013) developed their own 4T approach which is similar to Hall’s hypothesis. The 4T’s included; Typicality is when a teenager shows problematic behaviour. With new technology, researchers can focus on individual differences. Temperament, when a child’s temperament changes drastically at different points in their life. Transactions, between biological and mental impacts on our body; mainly occur during stress and the environment and timing, not every adolescent is going to develop at the same rate (Hollenstein, T., & Lougheed, J. P.2013).

In 1963, Kohlberg developed a series of moral dilemmas that typically involved a choice between two conclusions, both of which would be considered to be generally unacceptable by society. Which included three levels: Pre-Conventional, Conventional and Post-Conventional. Each level is split in to two stages. Kohlberg’s aim was to investigate how people came to their point of reasoning

The Pre-Conventional level has two driven stages; obedience and punishment driven and self-interest driven. The first stage focuses on a child’s desire to obey rules and what they are told to avoid punishment and the second stage focuses on the expression of “what’s in it for me?” meaning a child’s behaviour is defined by what they believe is in their best interest, if they will receive an reward for their behaviour. The Conventional level has two stages, but they are recognized as stages three and four in Kohlberg’s theory. Stage three is when children seek for the approval of others, acting in ways to avoid disapproval, having good behaviour and being nice to others. Stage four is when a child accepts rules given by parents as they see that obeying the rules is normal and what they are “supposed” to do as it is seen as important. This is where moral development begins. The Post-Conventional level is a child’s sense of morality, principles and values. Children start to realize that if they were to disobey rules, their actions will have consequences. 10%-15% of adults progress past stage 4 (Kohlberg, 1975; Colby et al, 1983).

Carol Gilligan argued that Kohlberg’s theory was androcentric, which means that Kohlberg focused primarily on male participants to gather data from. Kohlberg originally used male participants who were from a white, middle-class background and people frequently demonstrated inconsistency in their moral reasoning. In dilemmas involving drinking and driving and business, people use self-interest as their moral judgement (Parke, Gauvain & Schmuckler, 2010)

There are five stages in Erikson’s theory that involve adulthood. Stage 5 is Identity vs. Role Confusion which is the adolescence stage (12 to 18). During this stage teens and pre-teens start to find a sense of self-image and personal identity. A person might find it hard to find their own identity, linking to “fitting in” or feeling accepted. At this stage a person is developing a sense of morality. Some people might feel withdrawn from responsibilities; this can also include role confusion. Stage 6 is Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation – Love or the young adult stage (18-35). During this stage a person will begin to seek love and companionship, some may settle down and start their own families. In recent years it seems as if this stage has been pushed farther back due to careers developing. If this stage is unsuccessful, people may begin to isolate themselves, avoiding marriage and having long term friends. Stage 7 is Middle-Aged Adult (35-55/65). People who are in this stage of their life tend to put their career and work as a top priority as it is very important to support their family. Erikson’s idea of them stage is that people will attempt to product something that will improve society. Major life changed can occur during this stage such as children leaving the household. Some people might struggle with this, losing their sense of purpose. Stage 8, the last stage in Erikson’s theory is Integrity vs. Despair or Late Adult (55/65 – Death). In this stage, Erikson believed that people prepare for the middle adulthood stage and that this last stage involves an individual to reflect on their life, if they have contributed to society in a positive way and if they have fulfilled their own life. However, some people may struggle with the idea of death and feel as if they did not contribute to society as best as they could and begin to think if life really had a purpose and if it was worth it (Erikson, 1972).

An evaluation of Erikson’s theory is that many people find that the theory is relatable, referring to his stages. Although Erikson is vague about the causes of the development with his stages, it doesn’t apply to everyone as different cultures have a huge influence on how each person’s life plans out. Erikson does not explain why emotional development occurs in the development of these stages as well as not explaining how the outcome of each stage may affect a person later in life (McLeod, 2013).

Within each stage of Erikson’s theory come the key relationships and roles associated with stages of adulthood. Stage 5 as we know as the adolescence stage, has a few roles and relationships; the important ones being peer-groups and out-groups or friends, those whom they have things in common with and those whom they don’t. Erikson identified that adolescents obtain a sense of “who one is” and are uncertain about the roles they have presently and in the future. Stage 6 or the young adult stage will develop long term friendships and more committed sexual relationships. However, in this stage, there is also emphasis on the workplace, people have relationships with colleagues, whether people choose to cooperate and compete with them. This is the only stage to identify a relationship where there is competition, but does not indicate whether it is healthy competition or unhealthy. Stage 7 or the middle-aged adult will by now be a parent and in a long-term career, putting family and work as their top priorities. Many people have children in their 20’s and 30’s. Erikson does not emphasise the relationship the individual has with their children until their 40’s, which isn’t exactly valid as when people have children later or teen pregnancy occurs, Erikson’s theory isn’t always reliable. Stage 8 or late adult is where there is a focus on people’s lives as whole and what impact they have been on society. Erikson does not explain what happens and how people develop if we were to not obtain these relationships. Some of the relationships in the stages might not be applicable to everyone, what if some women can’t have children or just choose not to? What if same sex couples choose not to adopt their own children and become parents? (Erikson, 1972) Adolescents are more capable of forming strong attachments and are more capable of resolving conflict and forming strong attachments in adulthood (Marcia, 1966).

During adulthood, there are many key events that can occur during this time. The occurring events are as following; unemployment, retirement, marriage, divorce and parenthood. Unemployment can have a detrimental effect on a person, both physically and psychologically. Determined by a psychological effect to be depressed – the more long term it was, the more likely to was to develop (Argyle, 1972). Martin Seligman conducted two experiments with dogs in order to investigate what he called “learned helplessness”, which is a state of enduring pain because people believe they are powerless to avoid or stop the pain. During his first experiment, dogs were placed in a harness. One dog was left on their own whilst another two were placed together – their harnesses gave them electric shocks. One dog in the second group was able to press a level to stop their harnesses from giving them shocks; the other dog would receive the shocks regardless. During his second experiment, the dogs where then placed in a box separately. The dogs were given electric shocks again. However, they were able to stop them by jumping over a small wall and pressing a lever (Maier et al, 1995). Seligman’s experiment allows investigation of hypotheses and methods which would be unethical to conduct on humans. But, the use of animals is just as bad, since animals cannot consent. The physiology and psychology between humans and animals are too different to assume that the experiment will have the same outlook. The use of shocks is a method which can be considered not valid as shocks and unemployment are different – one is a physical stress whereas the loss of a job is more psychological (Nemade, 2007).

Atchley (1985) developed a six-phase process of retirement. Pre-retirement; at younger ages, retirement is seen as a distant future and causes little stress. Nearing the retirement process may cause anxiety due to a change in lifestyle. Honeymoon; occurs immediately after retirement. There is the feeling of euphoria due to a new found freedom. Disenchantment; the honeymoon phase slows down, provoking a feeling of let down or depression. Reorientation; occurs after time has passed to allow for more realistic view to develop. This may involve finding a new hobby, volunteering or joining a membership club. Stability; at this stage, a criteria has been made regarding to what is expected of them and allows them to be able to deal with their retirement comfortably. Termination; illness and disability may make housework and self-care difficult. This may also be a factor that leads to retirement. People don’t necessarily go through each stage sequentially, individuals respond to retirement differently than others. Some may find it easy to adapt to retirement, others may not. Atchley does not indicate how long each stage lasts. There is very little research beyond Atchley’s six phases into the psychological impact and how valid the stages are nowadays considering retirement has altered since the 80’s (Johnson, 2017). Marriage and the preparation for marriage can be very stressful. Davies (1956) found that psychologically, marriage and preparation can cause anxiety and depression. He also found that the effects of anxiety/depression decreased when the engagement was broken off or when the marriage took place. There is little research on the impacts that arranged marriages have on individuals in certain cultures. There is a lot of research from the mid-1800s and 1900s, showing consistency of research in over a century, supporting reliability (Hurst, 2013). According to Turnbull (1995) divorce rates are highest in the first five years. It acts as a stressor as it involves the loss of a significant other. However, a lot of research investigates the impact on children. A lot of research now investigates the effect divorce has on children, with little done on the impact it has on adults (Bowles III, 2017). According to Bee (1994) 90% of adults will be parents, mostly in their 20s and 30s. Having children can bring couples together but may make men left feel left out as women may become emotionally involved with the baby quicker. This may occur after continue after the baby has been born as the mother becomes preoccupied. The research conducted by Bee has been supported by other research, particularly on research conducted in western societies. However, there is little evidence to show us that this can be applied to other cultures as many other cultures show differences in the effects of parenting (Hurst, 2017).

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