Adolescence

What is adolescence? When does it begin and end? What risks and opportunities does it entail? This period of transformation from childhood to adulthood comprises so many changes in development—physical, cognitive, identity, and social—it has been referred to as adolescent metamorphosis.

Adolescence brings the emergence of sexual characteristics, sexual behavior, and sexual preference. Maturation affects males and females differently in terms of potential social and psychological problems.

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In addition to dramatic biological changes, adolescents continue to demonstrate cognitive development. In cognitive development, as the Piagetian stage of concrete operations is gradually supplanted by the formal operations stage, more evidence of reasoning and abstract thinking begin to emerge. The shift to this stage of formal thought has the capacity to influence adolescents’ approach to academics as well as other life domains.

In addition to biological and cognitive changes, there are dramatic advancements in socialization and peer relationships. During adolescence, relationships with parents, siblings, and peers change. Adolescents no longer fit in well with groups of younger children and at the same time, they are not sufficiently developed to associate well with adults. Thus, adolescents can be greatly influenced by peer relationships, something that often places them at odds with the influence of parents and the broader community including schools. What risky or unhealthy behaviors are associated with adolescence? Are these behaviors common across genders or across cultures?

Adolescence is a time when humans begin the process of figuring out who they are and who they want to be. The quest for individuality is a major focus at a time when significant and often uncomfortable changes are taking place. Erikson proposes that all adolescents experience an identity crisis that needs to be resolved.

Effects of earlier influences continue to manifest themselves in the development of adolescents. And, the significant biological and social changes that adolescents undergo have great implications for their emergence into adulthood.

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