Stages of Adolescence (2023)

Stages of Adolescence (1) Stages of Adolescence (2)

By: Brittany Allen, MD, FAAP & Helen Waterman, DO

Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It includes some big changes—to the body, and to the way a young person relates to the world.

The many physical, sexual, cognitive, social, and emotional changes that happen during this time can bring anticipation and anxiety for both children and their families. Understanding what to expect at different stages can promote healthy development throughout adolescence and into early adulthood.

Early Adolescence (Ages 10 to 13)

  • During this stage, children often start to grow more quickly. They also begin notice other body changes, including hair growth under the arms and near the genitals, breast development in females and enlargement of the testicles in males. They usually start a year or two earlier in girls than boys, and it can be normal for some changes to start as early as age 8 for females and age 9 for males. Many girls may start their period at around age 12, on average 2-3 years after the onset of breast development.

    (Video) Stages of Adolescence.

  • These body changes can inspire curiosity and anxiety in some―especially if they do not know what to expect or what is normal. Some children may also question their gender identity at this time, and the onset of puberty can be a difficult time for transgender children.

  • Early adolescents have concrete, black-and-white thinking. Things are either right or wrong, great or terrible, without much room in between. It is normal at this stage for young people to center their thinking on themselves (called "egocentrism"). As part of this, preteens and early teens are often self-conscious about their appearance and feel as though they are always being judged by their peers.

  • Pre-teens feel an increased need for privacy. They may start to explore ways of being independent from their family. In this process, they may push boundaries and may react strongly if parents or guardians reinforce limits.

Middle Adolescence (Ages 14 to 17)

  • Physical changes from puberty continue during middle adolescence. Most males will have started their growth spurt, and puberty-related changes continue. They may have some voice cracking, for example, as their voices lower. Some develop acne. Physical changes may be nearly complete for females, and most girls now have regular periods.

  • At this age, many teens become interested in romantic and sexual relationships. They may question and explore their sexual identity―which may be stressful if they do not have support from peers, family, or community. Another typical way of exploring sex and sexuality for teens of all genders is self-stimulation, also called masturbation.

  • Many middle adolescents have more arguments with their parents as they struggle for more independence. They may spend less time with family and more time with friends. They are very concerned about their appearance, and peer pressure may peak at this age.

  • The brain continues to change and mature in this stage, but there are still many differences in how a normal middle adolescent thinks compared to an adult. Much of this is because the frontal lobes are the last areas of the brain to mature―development is not complete until a person is well into their 20s! The frontal lobes play a big role in coordinating complex decision making, impulse control, and being able to consider multiple options and consequences. Middle adolescents are more able to think abstractly and consider "the big picture," but they still may lack the ability to apply it in the moment. For example, in certain situations, kids in middle adolescence may find themselves thinking things like:

    • "I'm doing well enough in math and I really want to see this movie… one night of skipping studying won't matter."

      (Video) Module 2.1s Adolescent development: The art of growing up

    • Do I really have to wear a condom during sex if my girlfriend takes the pill?"

    • "Marijuana is legal now, so it can't be that bad."

While they may be able to walk through the logic of avoiding risks outside of these situations, strong emotions often continue to drive their decisions when impulses come into play.

Late Adolescents (18-21… and beyond!)

Late adolescents generally have completed physical development and grown to their full adult height. They usually have more impulse control by now and may be better able to gauge risks and rewards accurately. In comparison to middle adolescents, youth in late adolescence might find themselves thinking:

    • "While I do love Paul Rudd movies, I need to study for my final."

    • "I should wear a condom…even though my girlfriend is on birth control, that's not 100% in preventing pregnancy."

    • "Even though marijuana is legal, I'm worried about how it might affect my mood and work/school performance."

Teens entering early adulthood have a stronger sense of their own individuality now and can identify their own values. They may become more focused on the future and base decisions on their hopes and ideals. Friendships and romantic relationships become more stable. They become more emotionally and physically separated from their family. However, many reestablish an "adult" relationship with their parents, considering them more an equal from whom to ask advice and discuss mature topics with, rather than an authority figure.

(Video) Comparison: Puberty

Parents: How ToHelp YourChildren Navigate Adolescence

Children and their parents often struggle with changing dynamics of family relationships during adolescence. But parents are still a critical support throughout this time.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Help your child anticipate changes in his or her body. Learn about puberty and explain what's ahead. Reassure them that physical changes and emerging sexuality is part of normal, healthy development. Leave room for questions and allow children to ask them at their own pace. Talk to your pediatrician when needed!

  • Start early conversations about other important topics. Maintain open communication about healthy relationships, sex, sexuality, consent, and safety (such as how to prevent sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy, and substance use). Starting these conversations during early adolescence will help build a good framework for discussions later.

  • Keep conversations with your child positive. Point out strengths. Celebrate successes.

  • Be supportive and set clear limits with high (but reasonable) expectations. Communicate clear, reasonable expectations for curfews, school engagement, media use, and behavior, for example. At the same time, gradually expanding opportunities for more independence over time as your child takes on responsibility. Youth with parents that aim for this balance have been shown to have lower rates of depression and drug use.

  • Discuss risky behaviors (such as sexual activity and substance use) and their consequences. Be sure to set a positive example yourself. This can help teens consider or rehearse decision-making ahead of time and prepare for when situations arise.

  • Honor independence and individuality. This is all part of moving into early adulthood. Always remind your child you are there to help when needed.

    (Video) Lesson 3: Developmental stages of middle and late adolescents

The adolescent years can feel like riding a roller coaster. By maintaining positive and respectful parent-child relationships during this period, your family can (try to) enjoy the ride!

Additional Information:

  • Ages and Stages: Teen

  • Ages and Stages: Puberty

  • What is an Adolescent Health Specialist?

  • Concerns Girls Have About Puberty

  • Concerns Boys Have About Puberty

About Dr. Allen:

Stages of Adolescence (3)Brittany Allen, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified general pediatrician and provides specialty care to transgender and gender nonconforming youth. She is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She is a member of American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health and Wellness and the Wisconsin Chapter.

About Dr. Waterman:

Stages of Adolescence (4)Helen Waterman, DO is a resident physician in pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is a member of the Section on Pediatric Trainees and the Section on Osteopathic Pediatricians.

(Video) Adolescence: Crash Course Psychology #20

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Stages of Adolescence? ›

Adolescence, these years from puberty to adulthood, may be roughly divided into three stages: earlyadolescence, generally ages eleven to fourteen; middleadolescence, ages fifteen to seventeen; and lateadolescence, ages eighteen to twenty-one.

What are the 4 stages of adolescence? ›

An adolescent has four tasks to accomplish to become a well-adjusted adult. These tasks are categorized as: 1) independence, 2) body image, 3) peer relations, and 4) identity. Adolescence is divided into three periods; early (ages 12-14), middle (ages 15-17) and late (ages 18-21).

What is adolescence stage of life cycle? ›

Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. Children entering adolescence are going through many changes in their bodies and brains. These include physical, intellectual, psychological and social challenges, as well as development of their own moral compass.

What are the stages and characteristics of adolescence? ›

Adolescence (10-19 years) is a phase of life which has recently gained recognition as a distinct phase of life with its own special needs. This phase is characterized by acceleration of physical growth and, psychological and behavioural changes thus bringing about transformation from childhood to adulthood.

What are the 4 stages of development? ›

Piaget's stages of development describe how children learn as they grow up. It has four distinct stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Each stage has different milestones and skills.

What is stage 5 adolescence identity vs? ›

Identity versus role confusion is the fifth stage of ego in psychologist Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 and 18. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self.

How long is the adolescent stage? ›

Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19. It is a unique stage of human development and an important time for laying the foundations of good health.

Who defined the 3 stages of adolescence? ›

Each child is different, but you can generally expect the following changes during the three stages of adolescence as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Each stage is separated into lists of both physical and mental/emotional changes.

What is adolescence period of growth? ›

Adolescence is a developmental period during which dependent children grow into independent adults. This period usually begins at about age 10 years and lasts until the late teens or early 20s.

What are the 5 main characteristics of adolescence? ›

The five leading characteristics of adolescence are biological growth and development, an undefined status, increased decision making, increased pressures, and the search for self.

What are the mental changes in adolescence? ›

Emotional changes in adolescence

Your child might show strong feelings and intense emotions, and their moods might seem unpredictable. These emotional ups and downs happen partly because your child's brain is still learning how to control and express emotions in a grown-up way.

What are the 8 stages of adolescence? ›

Understanding Erikson's 8 Stages of Development
  • Infancy – Basic trust versus mistrust.
  • Toddler – Autonomy versus shame and doubt.
  • Preschool-age – Initiative versus guilt.
  • School-age – Industry versus inferiority.
  • Adolescence – Identity versus identity confusion.
  • Young adulthood – Intimacy versus isolation.
Jun 15, 2021

What are the social changes in adolescence? ›

General Social Changes Adolescents Experience

As their social circles expand, adolescents spend less time with their families and may focus more on their peers. Young people also develop a greater capacity to form stronger relationships with adults outside of their families who may function as mentors.

What are the 7 phases of development life cycle? ›

What Are the 7 Phases of SDLC? The new seven phases of SDLC include planning, analysis, design, development, testing, implementation, and maintenance.

What are the stages of growth? ›

Infancy (neonate and up to one year age) Toddler ( one to five years of age) Childhood (three to eleven years old) - early childhood is from three to eight years old, and middle childhood is from nine to eleven years old. Adolescence or teenage (from 12 to 18 years old)

What are the 6 phases of development? ›

Our new Thrive philosophy is born from six stages of human development: social-emotional, intellectual, moral, psychological, physical, and spiritual.

What is stage 6 of psychosocial development? ›

Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation

In the sixth stage of Erikson's psychosocial development theory, young adulthood takes place between the ages of 18 and 40. During this time, major conflict can arise as we attempt to form longer term commitments outside of our family, with varying degrees of success.

What is Erikson's sixth stage? ›

One such stage — intimacy versus isolation — points out the struggle young adults have as they try to develop intimate, loving relationships. This is the sixth stage of development, according to Erikson.

What is the fifth stage of personality development? ›

The genital stage is the fifth and final stage of Freud's theory of psychosexual development, which begins in puberty and continues to adulthood. During this stage, individuals start to become sexually mature and begin to explore their sexual feelings and desires more maturely and responsibly.

Is adolescence the hardest life stage? ›

Adolescence is a period in which young individuals begin to assume adult positions socially. Note: Adolescence is the most difficult period of one's life. There are far too many significant life changes occurring in one's life, such as physical, psychological, and behavioural changes.

What are the hardest years of adolescence? ›

TEENAGERS at the age of 15 are the most difficult to raise according to their parents - as pressure at school and hormones make them moody.

Does adolescence end at 25? ›

Adolescence (generally defined as puberty through age 18) Young adulthood (generally defined as 18 to 22 or 18 to 25) Later adulthood (generally defined as mid-20s and older)

What age is a late adolescent? ›

Late Adolescents (18-21… and beyond!)

Late adolescents generally have completed physical development and grown to their full adult height. They usually have more impulse control by now and may be better able to gauge risks and rewards accurately.

What is the difference between adolescent and adolescence? ›

Adolescents comes from the Latin word adolescentem which means growing, near maturity. Remember, adolescence is a stage, process or period of development, adolescents are the people going through the stage, process or period of development.

What is the most common psychological problem in adolescence? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in adolescents.

What is a common mental illness in adolescence? ›

Emotional disorders

Anxiety disorders (which may involve panic or excessive worry) are the most prevalent in this age group and are more common among older than among younger adolescents. It is estimated that 3.6% of 10-14 year-olds and 4.6% of 15-19 year-olds experience an anxiety disorder.

What are the major changes in adolescence? ›

Beyond the growth spurts, other physical changes that happen in both males and females include body odor, acne, and more body hair. Females will see changes in where fat appears on their body. For example, breasts become fuller and hips grow wider.

What is an example of adolescence stage? ›

Most males will have started their growth spurt, and puberty-related changes continue. They may have some voice cracking, for example, as their voices lower. Some develop acne. Physical changes may be nearly complete for females, and most girls now have regular periods.

What is the adolescent stage of development Erikson? ›

According to Erik Erikson, the main task of adolescents is to solve the crisis of identity versus role confusion. Research has shown that a stable and strong sense of identity is associated with better mental health of adolescents.

What are the major problems of adolescence? ›

Mental health

Depression and anxiety are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is among the leading causes of death in people aged 15–19 years. Half of all mental health disorders in adulthood start by age 14, but most cases are undetected and untreated.

What are the psychological changes in adolescence? ›

The psychological changes of adolescence include the appearance of new cognitive structures (e.g., the ability to think abstractly) and introspective ability, the establishment of moral values and norms, and a coming to terms with the developmental tasks that are specific to this period of life, as discussed in the ...

What are the 8 behavioral traits of teenager? ›

Normal Teen 101 – The Top 10 Behavior Issues
  • Lying. Many teens lie out of fear of the consequences for their behavior, or even fear that you will be upset or withdraw love if they tell you the truth. ...
  • Arguing. ...
  • Defiance. ...
  • An awkward phase. ...
  • Abandoning commitments. ...
  • Withdrawal. ...
  • Attitude. ...
  • Impulsivity.

What are the 7 stages of development? ›

  • Infant Development.
  • Toddler Development.
  • Preschooler Development.
  • Middle Childhood Development.
  • Adolescent Development.
  • Adult Development.

What is the identity crisis during adolescence? ›

During the fifth stage, in adolescence, a person must choose between identity and identity confusion. This stage features an identity crisis. During an identity crisis, a person “tries on” different identities and ways of being.

What are the theories of adolescent development? ›

They are the lifespan perspective, the learning perspective, the humanistic perspective, the ecological perspective, the sociocultural perspective, and the positive youth development perspective.


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