3. During this period habits become permanent.
The pathways traced through childhood and adolescence become settled, the cells gradually lose power to change, and by the close of Adolescence, character is practically determined, unless a Divine power “makes all things new.”
4. The influence of heredity is strongly felt during the early part of Adolescence.
A child may be defrauded of his inheritance in stocks and bonds and estates, but the bequest of tendencies to which his parents and grandparents and the long line back have made him heir, can not be diverted.
There is danger of over-emphasizing the doctrine of heredity and lessening the sense of personal responsibility for conduct. There is also danger of minimizing it, and consequently failing to give the help that many a life needs in its effort to overcome an evil inheritance.
Heredity means simply a pull upon the life in a certain direction, because of the way those before have lived. It is easier to climb upward, if “the hands of twenty generations are reached down from the heights to help, than as if they reached up from below to drag down.” But whatever the inherited tendencies, any life may have the “antithetic heredity,” which is a part of its glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ.
5. This period contains the largest number of first commitments for crime.
Three coincident facts demand serious and careful consideration.
First. The greatest number of first commitments occur from twelve to sixteen.
Second. The greatest spiritual awakenings occur between twelve and sixteen.
Third. “Girls are most susceptible to influence for good or evil between eleven to seventeen, with the climax about fourteen, and boys from twelve to nineteen, with the climax about sixteen.” Is not the work of nurture plain?
6. During the early part of this period, by far the heaviest losses from church and Sunday School occur.
“While thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” Who was gone? A soul in its crisis, making eternal choices, easily influenced by a word, a look or a touch, in the grip of fierce temptations, but catching sight of Divine possibilities, needing help as at no time before or later, this is the soul that slipped away, in all probability, not to be brought back. You who let it slip, “How will you go up to your Father and the lad be not with you?”
In turning to a more detailed consideration of Adolescence, we find the wealth of material so far exceeding the limitations of our space, that the study must be selective, not analytic. Only those conditions in the life, therefore, which seem most imperative in their demands upon nurture will be chosen for discussion.
The first period of Adolescence covers about four years, approximately from twelve to sixteen with boys and eleven to fifteen with girls, and is perhaps the most trying of all to deal with.