Adolescence is probably the most difficult period in life of every individual since it is a transitional stage between childhood and adulthood. In this period adolescent undergo significant changes in physiological, psychological and social aspects. Naturally, these changes produce a significant impact on their lifestyle, behaviour, psychology, etc.
Traditionally, adolescence is considered to start at preteens, i.e. from 9-10 years of age till 19-20 years of age. Basically, adolescence may be divided into three main stages middle childhood (8-11), early adolescence (11-14), and middle adolescence (15-18) while the last years of adolescence may be characterised as the last years when individuals completely grew into adults.
The first stage when children actually start to transform into adolescents begins at preteens and lasts until 11 years of age. This stage marks the start of a fast physical growth since at this stage uneven growth of bones, muscles, and organs starts that may result in certain awkward appearance. Some children, especially girls begin puberty at this age that creates certain difficulties for them, so they need access to information about sexuality appropriate for their age.
On the cognitive level, some elements of childhood are combined with elements of adolescence. To put it more precisely, logical thinking starts to develop, though children are still have limited abstract concepts. Also they accumulate general knowledge and attempt to apply it to new tasks. As a rule they are interested in learning life skills.
At the same time, it should be said that at this age children still remain egocentric but they attempt to gain social approval and live up to the expectations of people close to them, which are basically parents, though the influence of peers is growing stronger.
Furthermore, children’s self-concept is basically shaped by relationships with parents, teachers and peers. Often they have little concern about their physical appearance though certain pressure to conform ‘masculine’ stereotype among boys and girls’ body image declines, especially with puberty. At this stage lower self-control and emotional stability may be observed.
Speaking about emotional and psychological development at this stage, it is necessary to point out that children need to develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment that is often accompanied by certain disorganisation and forgetfulness. It is also noteworthy that parents still remains important for children at this stage and the children’s involvement in the taking decisions concerning themselves remains rather low though it starts to increase dramatically as children grew older. Basically, the latter occurs with the beginning of puberty.
As for their peers, it should be pointed out that friendship is with same-gender peers. Also, at this stage, the formation of exclusive ‘clubs’ and shifting peer alliances may be observed. Finally, it is necessary to underline that mass media and pop culture produce a significant impact on children’s development, peer activities and relations at this stage.
The second stage of adolescence is early adulthood that starts at the age of 11 and lasts till 14. At this stage, an extremely rapid physical changes occur, since it is the puberty period that affects both genders. Often appetite increases, evident sexual changes occur, that results in voice changes and body ordor. In the state of a rapid physical growth, adolescents often have an increased need for sleep.
Furthermore, at this stage, certain cognitive changes occur. To put it more precisely, some adolescents are still focused on logic, while others are already able to combine logical and abstract thinking. However, it should be pointed out that some adolescents can’t think ahead about consequences of their actions that makes their behaviour unpredictable and unexpected. Anyway, they start to think more abstractly, think about their possibilities, the process of thinking itself. Moreover, they start to think in multiple dimensions. It should be said that often they practice new thinking skills through humor and by arguing with parents and others.
At the sage of early adolescence, moral development is still characterized by strong egocentrism. At the same time, they acquire ability to take perspectives of others into account with own perspective. In addition to attempts to gain social approval, adolescents moral is getting to be based on respect for the social order and agreements between people. On the other hand, they start to question social conventions and re-examine their moral principles that often results in conflicts with their parents.
Also, it should be said that at this stage the separation of adolescents from their families begins and peers begin to play increasingly more important, and often defining, role. At the same time, physiological changes can result in a negative self-concept and particular concern on their appearance.
In the result of intense self-focus adolescents may have an increased desire for privacy and sensitivity about body. Also the mood of adolescents at this stage may change frequently and forgetfulness is still a characteristic of them.
In their relations with parents and adults, adolescents are getting more distanced and more concerned on their relations with their peers. At this stage, physical affection often rebuffs. At the same time, the character of friendship changes since it begins to involve sharing of values and personal confidences. However, the development of cliques of three to six friends may result in anti-social behavior, though it is not a common rule but rather an exception. In stark contrast, some romantic crushes and first dating may occur at this stage.
This stage of adolescence lasts from 15 to 18 years of age and basically is characterized by the end of puberty that result in lower variations of growth and sexual development compared to the previous stage. Many adolescents at this stage achieve their adult physical milestones.
Furthermore, at this stage adolescents are getting able to think abstractly and hypothetically, discern basic principles of various phenomena and apply them to new situations. In the result of a greater perspective-thinking ability, empathy and concern for others increase, as well as new interest in societal issues.
The moral development of adolescents becomes less egocentric and abstract values and moral principles play increasingly more important role. It is important to underline that adolescents develop bigger ‘social picture’ and may put moral values over social laws. On the other hand, adolescents’ moral development still remains contradictive. For instance, adolescents can often advocate for specific values and violate them at the same time.
Also, it is necessary to underline that at this stage the process of identity formation is intense that can result in certain experiments with different roles, such as looks, sexuality, friendship, ethnicity, etc. In psychological domain, this stage may be characterized by increased ability to emphasize with others that may also lead to higher vulnerability to worrying, depression and particular concern for others.
The relationships with adults, especially parents, gradually improve at this stage and adolescents feeling to be more interested in taking on ‘adult-type’ responsibilities, they attempt to take independent decisions, preparing themselves for adulthood.
Finally, it should be said that the time spent with parents and other adults, on the one hand, and peers, on the other hand, gradually is getting to be more balanced. In relations with peers, cross-gender friendship is growing to be more common and peers at this stage help adolescents to explore and develop their own identity.
Thus, in conclusion it is possible to say that adolescence is a very complicated and extremely important age when children grow older and transit to adulthood. Naturally, they may face certain psychological problems but eventually they arrive to the formation of their identity and their place in their social group.
1. Lerner, Richard M. and Laurence Steinberg. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, New York: Routledge, 1999.
2. Patel D.R. et al. Adolescent growth, development, and psychosocial aspects of sports participation: An overview. Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews 9(3) 1998, 425–440.