What is Adolescence?
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What Does Adolescence Mean
We explain what adolescence is and what its stages are. In addition, the physical changes and psychological changes that it produces.
What is adolescence?
Adolescence is understood as the period of human development after childhood and before adulthood or adulthood, in which the biological, sexual, social and psychological changes necessary to form a socially mature individual and physically prepared for reproduction take place. .
The starting and ending points of adolescence are not absolutely defined, although the first point is the onset of puberty . But this varies according to the individual and their history, which is why the World Health Organization ( WHO ) has recorded an average adolescence range ranging from 10 to 19 years.
This means that adolescence is part of the vital period called youth : between approximately 10 and 24 years of age. But there are also those who consider that adolescence can extend even up to 21 years, and even up 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 “passing” rituals. Some examples of this are the quinceañera, traditional in many Hispanic countries, in which young women are presented in society ; or the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah , in which 13-year-old boys and 12-year-old girls are considered adults, respectively.
On the other hand, adolescence is the scene of instabilities 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 recedes, and then declines dramatically as they reach adulthood.
See also: Sexuality
Stages of adolescence
Two distinct stages are usually distinguished within the adolescent period:
- 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 last stage ranges from 14 or 15 years of age to 19 or 20, and is normally characterized by the gradual entry of the individual into adulthood, especially by the progressive appearance of the psychological and emotional characteristics that maturation implies. .
Physical changes in adolescence
The entry into puberty during adolescence triggers a hormonal torrent in both sexes 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 mark the first stage of the process , which is followed by the generation of sperm and seminal fluids, the first nocturnal pollutions. (involuntary ejaculations), as well as growth of the testicles and penis. On the other hand, the voice becomes thicker (sometimes after a period of fluffing), the body gains volume.
In women there is the beginning of menstruation and the growth of the mammary glands (breasts), as well as the development of the Bartholin's glands, responsible for vaginal lubrication. Lastly, the hips, labia minora and hymen thicken, 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 individual identity , after going through processes of extreme socialization and of doubt, uncertainty or existential concerns. The adolescent learns to deal with his emotions in an adult way, but is first caught up in a changing whirlwind of them.
Many teens are insecure or shy, oscillate between euphoria and depression , and have troubled stages of rebellion. The adolescent is supposed to be "trying out" various modes of community and group membership , which often involves opposing parental authority or family laws .