The period of life between childhood and adulthood is adolescence. This period starts with the beginnings of sexual maturity and ends with being an independent adult, according to an article by Russell Viner and Deborah Christie in the Feb. 5, 2005, issue of the “British Medical Journal”. In Western countries, this period generally corresponds to the teen years. Many developmental issues occur during an adolescent’s route to adulthood.
Adolescence starts with puberty. During puberty, the reproductive organs and external genitalia develop as well as nonreproductive features, such as hips and breasts in girls, and a deepened voice and facial hair in boys. A surge of hormones initiates puberty around the ages of 11 years in girls and 13 years in boys. Puberty begins with breast development and a growth spurt in girls and testicular enlargement in boys. Adolescent boys typically experience a growth spurt later, starting at around 14 years. The landmarks of puberty are the first menstrual period for girls and the first ejaculation for boys. Common adolescent concerns are delayed puberty and being short in height, which is a particular concern among boys, according to Dr. Viner and Dr. Christie. Another area of physical development is in the brain, especially the frontal lobe, which is the area for impulse control, judgment and the ability to plan. The frontal lobe develops during the teens and early 20s. An undeveloped frontal lope helps explain impulsiveness, risky behaviors, and moodiness among adolescents.
The ability to think abstractly begins to develop in early adolescence. Abstract reasoning allows one to think about the future and view multiple outcomes. In early adolescence, thinking may be more concrete until abstract thinking develops more fully. Later in adolescence, the ability to reason through abstract thinking enables teens to detect inconsistencies and hypocrisy, which may lead to arguments with others.
Adolescence is a period of separating from parents with the goal of being an independent adult. During this period, arguments between teens and parents can become more intense. Adolescence is usually marked with less parental influence and greater peer influence. Thus, information provided by parents may be disregarded.
According to the developmental theorist, Erik Erikson, adolescents typically search for their identities. Teenagers usually try out different identities, such as trying out different clothing styles or acting one way with friends and another way at home. This role confusion typically gets resolved by forming a single identity, but some never seem to find themselves. Some teens do not go through this role confusion, as they adopt their parents’ standards and values. As they sort out who they are, teens usually define others in relation to themselves. Teens may have difficulty realizing how their behaviors impact themselves or others. Thus, adolescents typically believe they are invulnerable to anything bad happening to them, which can lead to risky behaviors. Many also believe that others, especially parents, cannot understand what they are going through.
- “British Medical Journal”; ABC of Adolescence: Adolescent Development”; Russell Viner and Deborah Christie; February 5, 2005.
- “Childhood and Society”; Erik Erikson; 1963.
- “Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents”; National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health and Georgetown University; 2006.