Adolescence - What Are The Stages of Adolescence?

Adolescence is a word that strikes fear into many parents' hearts. Not even having survived the late-night feedings of infancy, the tantrums of toddlerhood, or the accident-prone nature of the childhood years can make parents fully prepared for having a teenager in their home for the first time. Of course, this is over generalizing. Many young people go through adolescent development without making life a nightmare for their parents, and those that do have rough patches go through many positive periods as well. With firm but fair parenting, as well as good will and respect on all sides, adolescence and the teenage years can be an exciting and pleasant time for the whole family, and parents can take pride in watching their child blossom into the adult he or she is destined to become.

Adolescence Definition

Adolescence is generally thought of as the period a child goes through between the ages of approximately 13 to 18 years of age. It coincides with the experience puberty (sexual development into adulthood) but is not exactly the same thing. Adolescence refers more to the emotional and social changes a young person goes through at this time. Kids at this age are now defining who they will be as adults. They are searching for their personal identities, demonstrating their ability to live and make decisions independently of their parents (which can be a source of family conflict) and discovering their sexual orientation. It's very normal for young people of this age to test the boundaries of the accepted values within society and their own families.

The Stages Of Adolescence

The stages of adolescence can be broken down into early (age 12 to 14), middle (15 to 17) and late (18 to 21). Most of the major changes (physically anyway) take place during the early stage and the first year of the middle stage. The adolescence ages of 12 to 14 can be particularly bewildering as the young person tries to adapt to his or her new physical and emotional self. Interest in sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is usually in full swing by the middle stage, but may not manifest itself in relationships until the last year or two of the middle stage, or the late stage. In any case, sex education is extremely important tool during the teenage years for empowering young people to make safe choices and to say "no" to sexual relationships for which they are not ready.


Puberty is the word used to describe the physical changes that affect boys and girls during the teenage years. The onset of puberty usually takes place around age 11 to 12, but in some cases, girls as young as 8 have started to show signs of sexual development (menstruation, and breast growth). The experience of puberty is as individual as the young people who are going through it. Some start early and some start late. This can result in self-esteem issues among adolescent kids, who tend to focus a lot on comparing themselves against their peers. The changing levels of hormones that adolescents experience during puberty are thought to be the cause of some of the emotional outbursts and antisocial sleeping patterns (up all night and sleeping all day) that really drive parents crazy.


Boy bodies during puberty begin to produce more testosterone (a sex hormone). This causes their voices to crack (become deeper), their penis and testes to become larger, and hair to grow under their arms, on their faces, arms, legs, chest and genital area. Boys normally go through a growth spurt and become more muscular.


Girls' bodies begin producing more of the sex hormone estrogen. This causes hair growth under the arms and in the genital area, as well as breast development and the onset of menstruation (having periods). A girl usually gets her first period about two years after her breasts start to grow. Girls will get taller, put on weight and develop more noticeable female curves.

Adolescence Articles

One thing the internet is certainly not short of is help and advice for the parents of adolescents. You'll find adolescence articles explaining typical behavior for this age, how to discipline adolescent children, and how to spot signs of a serious problem (such as depression, or substance abuse). There are a number of online medical adolescence journals if you are interested in the more biological side of your child's experience (although it may be best not to let him or she see you reading them!). If you need some light hearted relief or support from fellow (exasperated) parents, try looking up some humorous adolescence quotes.

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