We explain what adolescence is and what its stages are. In addition, the physical changes and psychological changes it produces.
What is adolescence?
Adolescence means the period of human development after childhood and before adulthood or adulthood, in which the biological, sexual, social and psychological changes necessary to train a socially mature individual and physically prepared for reproduction take place .
The beginning and end points of adolescence are not absolutely defined, although the beginning of puberty is the first point . But this varies according to the individual and their history, so the World Health Organization ( WHO ) has registered an average adolescence range from 10 to 19 years.
This means that adolescence is part of the vital period called youth : between approximately 10 and 24 years. But there are also those who believe that adolescence can extend even to 21 years, and even to 25.
In any case, adolescence is usually the scene of the celebration of social rites in different human cultures , which see in it an initiatory step to adulthood, and commemorate or celebrate them through different rituals “passing”. Some examples of this are the celebration of the fifteen years, traditional in many Hispanic countries, in which the young girls in society are presented ; or the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah , in which the boys of 13 years and the girls of 12 are considered adults, respectively.
On the other hand, adolescence is the scene of instability and social and emotional pressures that make it a stage of vulnerability and risk . In fact, the adolescent mortality rate increases as the years progress and childhood moves away, and then drastically decreases upon reaching adulthood.
Stages of adolescence
Usually two distinct stages are distinguished within the period of adolescence:
- Early adolescence . The beginning of this first stage is marked by the entry into puberty and the beginning of the physical changes that lead the body towards sexual and biological maturation. This occurs at 10 or 11 years of age (in some cases from 9) and ends around 14 or 15.
- Late adolescence . This second and final stage includes between 14 and 15 years of age until 19 or 20, and is usually characterized by the gradual entry of the individual into adulthood, especially by the progressive appearance of psychological and emotional characteristics that maturation implies .
Physical changes in adolescence
The entrance into puberty during adolescence triggers in both sexes a hormonal torrent that triggers the development of secondary sexual characteristics , through which the sexual roles of the species are distinguished. Some of them are common, such as the appearance of pubic hair and body hair.
In the case of men, the appearance of facial hair , the thickening of the Adam’s apple and the onset of erections usually marks the first stage of the process , which continues the generation of sperm and seminal fluids, the first nocturnal pollution (involuntary ejaculations), as well as growth of the testicles and penis. On the other hand, the voice becomes thicker (sometimes after a period of flare-up), the body gains volume.
In women, the onset of menstruation and the growth of the mammary glands (breasts), as well as the development of Bartholin’s glands, responsible for vaginal lubrication. Finally, there is a thickening of the hips, the labia minora and the hymen, and the body acquires its characteristic “guitar” shape.
Psychological changes in adolescence
The psychological changes of the adolescent in both sexes tend to the formation of the individual identity , after going through processes of extreme socialization and of doubt, uncertainty or existential concerns. The teenager learns to deal with his emotions in an adult way, but first he is involved in a changing whirlwind of them.
Many teenagers are insecure or shy, oscillate between euphoria and depression , and present problematic stages of rebellion. The adolescent is supposed to be “testing” various modes of group and community membership , which often implies opposing parental authority or family laws .