Adolescence is a stage in life that is a transitional period going from childhood to
adulthood. Adolescence begins around the age of 12 and can go until the age of
24. Adolescence is a time of growth and adaption for both children and parents.
Early adolescence can still have traits of childhood. The beginning of puberty is what marks the
end of childhood. Early adolescence encompasses physical changes that are associated with
Puberty refers to maturation of physical sexual characteristic. Puberty typically occurs in
females earlier than males. The average age for females is 10, but it can sometimes occur
earlier. The average age for males is 12, but onset can occur earlier in males sometimes even
as early as 9.
Late Adolescence begins the journey into emerging adulthood. Late adolescence typically
begins around age 16. This stage includes psychosocial changes as adolescents are moving
towards an increased independence. Adolescents are gaining more personal responsibilities
during this time of transition.
During the teenage years, teenage minds change in ways that a person remembers, thinks,
focuses, reasons, relates to others, and in decision making.
Teenage decision making can be impulsive and focused on the immediate and lack any
consideration for long-term consequences. While the teenage brain can be impulsive, it can
also be a positive thing meaning teenage brains have greater memories and more of a
willingness to think outside the box.
During adolescence, drugs and alcohol can have greater damaging effects on the developing
mind. Adolescent brains can be more vulnerable causing these substances to be more
addictive. Some damage might not be undone which can lead to addiction, depression, and
The teenage brain is very proficient at learning new skills such as learning a new language, a
musical instrument, etc. However, these cognitive skills do not mean that the emotional side of
a teenage brain is as efficient. The teenage brain can be more emotional and erratic at times.
Although adolescents think they can stay up all night, in reality, adolescents need sleep for
Family Status are the aspects of family structure and positioning: single parenting,
socioeconomic resources, employment, and education.
Family Process is the relationship within the family. The relationships can be intergenerational
(grandparent involvement) or intragenerational (sibling involvement and relationships).
Parenting styles do need to adapt during the adolescent stage. Parents must now learn to meet
the needs of a maturing child. During this time adolescents can begin to pressure parents to be
treated more maturely and demand more independence in the relationship. While some
independence is needed, adolescents still flourish on parental attention and meaningful
relationships. The quality of time spent together is what is critical.
During adolescence, parents become more authoritative, less authoritarian, but eventually
parents become more permissive as their adolescent grows older. This is due to the increasing
autonomy of the adolescent.
Autocratic: teens have no freedom of expression with their opinions and are not allowed to
make any decision about their life.
Authoritarian: Teens can express their opinion, but parents still make the decisions
Democratic: Teens and parents share the power, but parents can still veto the power of making
Permissive: Teens begin to take more responsibility for decisions and actions, but still have an
understanding that parents will have input in the decision-making process.
Egalitarian: Teens and parents have equal power , and the decision-making process is a joint
Laissez-faire: Teens have complete control for making decisions. Parents may give information
and opinions, but generally teens disregard those opinions.
Ignoring: Parent do not take part or have any interest in an adolescent’s behavior.
It is important to have a good foundation of healthy eating as a child is brought up, so that
during the teenage years adolescents are more likely to make positive food choices.
Family meals and food choices along with positive parental role models can remain significant
despite pressures from peers.
With adolescence comes an increase in appetite. Without positive guidance from parents,
teens are more likely to be tempted to eat less-nutritious easy-to-access foods.
Continued health monitoring is also important throughout the teenage years. Monitoring
health allows for any early detection of irregularities and also helps to aid in keep
immunizations up to date. Establishing a relationship with a provider can also allow for a teen
to build rapport with the doctor which can make it easier for the teen to talk about any
confidential or personal issues and health concerns he or she may have.
The misuse of prescription drugs and fatal overdoses has been on the rise and has become a
health epidemic among teens. The teenage brain is more susceptible to alcohol abuse and drug
Although teens sometimes feel they are invincible, they need to be aware of the vulnerability
their brain has to drug and alcohol use.
Those adolescents who have been reared under a more authoritative style of parenting have a
greater ability to resist succumbing to the pressure from peers of using alcohol or drugs.
If parental role modeling is appropriate, teens are again less likely to engage in habits such as
smoking, drinking, or drugs.
While it is a sensitive subject, suicide is one of the highest leading causes of deaths among 1124 year old children.
Despite a popular myth, asking an individual who you may suspect to be having suicidal
thoughts will not cause that person to want to commit suicide.
Suicide can be related to may factors such as clinical depression. Some mental illnesses begin
to be present during late adolescence and can be factors.
Bullying can also be a factor for suicidal thoughts or attempts. An adolescent who is depressed
can feel that this is the only escape.
Eating disorders are becoming more recognized as a mental health disorder. An eating disorder
can sometimes be a means for a person to feel they have control. Low self esteem and a
distorted body image can also be reasons a teen might develop an eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by starvation and a low body mass in an individual. This
eating disorder is accompanied by distorted body image and it is commonly accompanied with
excessive exercise. It can start with dieting and the desire to be a certain weight, but it
becomes life threatening and may even require hospitalization.
Therapy for this disorder can aid in treating malnutrition and psychotherapy to teach a teen
how to become more autonomous in a less self-destructive way.
Bulimia is a disorder that involves intaking copious amounts of food, and then purging those
foods from the body by inducing vomiting or abusing laxatives.
Those individuals with bulimia know their behavior is inappropriate unlike those suffering from
Binging and purging is done in secret to avoid discovery.
This condition also responds positively to therapy: both individual and family/group therapy.
Family climate is use to describe the well-being of family members on an emotional level.
When change in a family takes place that can alter the system’s functioning, the structure and
unity of the family system is threatened.
Family systems to face changes and challenges especially when a child becomes an adolescent
and he or she begins to have that desire for individuation. This can pose a threat to the family’s
functioning and system cohesion.
During this stage, parents can sometimes be reluctant to release their teen from the
boundaries and limits that were set in place during earlier developmental stages. Those
parents who struggle to allow their child autonomy can sometimes be referred to as “helicopter
Parents who utilize the authoritative parenting style can still provide structure for their growing
adolescent and while being firm they can present it in a more warm and loving way.
Peer groups are a part of an adolescents formation of his or her personal identity. Teenagers
look to peers for their own self-evaluations. Peer groups help adolescents form and redefine
their personal identity.
During adolescence, boundaries between child and parent are more distinct, but the
boundaries between peer groups begins to blur.
Adolescence is the time of struggle towards liberation. Individuation is the process that leads
to this and it is part of the identity formation in adolescent development. This process beings in
adolescence, but it may not be completed in some until adulthood.
Working part-time jobs, choosing friends, and dating are several steps an adolescent takes
During adolescence, an individual’s understanding becomes more flexible. Instead of thinking
being governed by perceptions, adolescents are able to have more abstract thinking and
reasoning. Adolescents are able to detach from reality and think of many possibilities (for
example, playing the devil’s advocate).
Cognitive egocentrism can hinder mature thinking. Egocentrism can establish itself in several
Exaggeration and dramatization -which is interpreting something in a more complex way than
Imaginary audience- adolescent’s believe that they are the center of everyone’s attention and
every move they make is being inspected. (self-consciousness about their appearance; who
they are seen with)
Incongruence- there can be a difference in what they believe and how they act. In other words,
they can be sensitive to how others treat them, but they can be insensitive to other people’s
Personal Invincibility- they take chances and risks because adolescents often feel that bad
things will not happen to them.
One of the first interpersonal social experiences that addresses sexuality for a teenager is
dating. More teens are becoming sexually active at younger ages. For many, as they age
adolescents become more involved with just one partner as opposed to promiscuity.
Sex education is needed for teens because adolescence is that time of experimenting and
exploring. Sexual choices require that abstract thinking process. If teens do not have proper
and informative sex education, they may resort to learning about sex on their own with
unreliable resources that are not factual. Parents can help to provide information to their child
by providing resources that can talk about abstinence or understanding safe sex.
Almost half of STIs reported are among adolescents between the ages of 15 to 24. Some of this
could be due to lack of sex education information available to teenagers.
Sexual expression should always be consensual. Coercion in sexual relationships along with
unequal power can lead to intimate partner violence and rape.
Young women should be taught that they do have the right to say no and should be supported
in that decision by their partner.
Contraceptive use signals that an individual understands the consequences of a sexual activity
such as pregnancy or disease.
Teenagers are sometimes influenced on their use of contraceptives by a variety of cognitive
distortions about their ability to become pregnant.
If teens can delay the onset on becoming sexually active until later adolescence they are more
likely to use contraceptives.
Parents’ openness to communicate about sex with their child and providing information to their
child can also influence an adolescent to be more likely to use contraceptives.
Peer groups also have an influence on each other. If peers are positive about the use of
contraceptives, their friend group will also be more likely to adopt this belief.
Gender roles begin to become clearer during adolescence. Sexual orientation is influenced by
biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Ad adolescents begin to explore their sexual orientation they can become concerned about
Family rejection can be a harmful risk to those LGBT young adults. The strongest support is
Emerging adulthood is the beginning of early adulthood. This transitional stage was first
described by developmental psychologist, Jeffrey Jenson Arnett.
Emerging adulthood is between the ages of 18 to 25.
In this stage emerging adults have five defining characteristics:
Exploring one’s identity
Having feelings of instability
Focusing on one’s self
Emotionally feeling between adolescence and adulthood
Experiencing a range of life’s possibilities
Most adults find this time of their life as a time of transition where they are completing the final
aspects of individuation from their family system. Many are not married and still rely on their
parents for some financial dependency. Some young adults even find themselves returning
home for a period of time.
Unhealthy prolonged dependency sometimes takes place with adult children and their
parents. It could be due to parents who are overinvolved, adult children who need prolonged
help due to higher education, or parents did not encourage individuation in their child. A lack
of boundaries can also be a factor. Parents can encourage their child towards individuation by
establishing deadlines for tasks to be accomplished.
Most pregnancies among teens occur due to the lack of using contraceptives. Teen pregnancies
can result in both short and long term consequences.
Teenage marriages are more likely to be high risk and prone to divorce. If the father in the teen
pregnancy is more involved, the relationship is more likely to be more stable and lasting.
Early marriage is an option but it is not always the optimal solution. Public assistance for an
unmarried, pregnant teen can be an essential resource.
The most important thing teen parents can receive is the support to finish their education. The
younger the mother, the less likely she is to return to school after giving birth. Dropping out of
school can cause long term consequences as the teen gets older and begins to seek
Teen mothers are sometimes less likely to engage in prenatal care which can cause physical
complications for the young mother. A lack of health care can also affect the health of a young
Mental health can also have negative affects due to a lack of social support and resources.
The quality of the relationship between the young mother and father prior to the birth of the
child can have an influence on the coparenting that will occur once the child is born.
Paternal involvement can also depend on the mother’s support and expectations.
A variety of programs have been established to help young fathers understand the changes in
their lives as they become parents.
Programs available can aid teen parents by providing counseling, peer education, or services to
increase contraceptive use (which appear to be more beneficial than those programs that only
Other programs are those that bring awareness to the potential of contracting an STI if
engaging in sexual activity.
Sex education programs that offer information about both abstinence and contraception use
have been found most helpful in causing teens to delay becoming sexually active, showing a
reduction in the amount of sexual partners, and an increase in the use of contraceptives.
Programs have been developed to reach pregnant teens in the public school system. Programs
are also being established to reach those in schools that are already parents.
Due to the negative impact a lack of education can have on an individual, some schools and
programs are even beginning to offer child care services to teen parents so they can continue
Participation in programs can help young parents to receive the education and skills they need
to improve their parenting skills. Many of these programs include information about child
development and infant and child behavior.
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