In studying adolescent development, adolescence can be defined biologically, as the physical transition marked by the onset of puberty and the termination of physical growth; cognitively, as changes in the ability to think abstractly and multi-dimensionally; or socially, as a period of preparation for adult roles. Major pubertal and biological changes include changes to the sex organs, height, weight, and muscle mass, as well as major changes in brain structure and organization. Cognitive advances encompass both increment in knowledge and in the ability to think abstractly and to reason more effectively. The study of adolescent development often involves interdisciplinary collaborations. For example, researchers in neuroscience or bio-behavioral health might focus on pubertal changes in brain structure and its effects on cognition or social relations. Sociologists interested in adolescence might focus on the acquisition of social roles (e. g. , worker or romantic partner) and how this varies across cultures or social conditions. Developmental psychologists might focus on changes in relations with parents and peers as a function of school structure and pubertal status. Some scientists have questioned the universality of adolescence as a developmental phase, arguing that traits often considered typical of adolescents are not in fact inherent to the teenage years.
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