What Are the Three Stages of Adolescence?

Reviewed on 6/8/2021

Adolescence is the transitional period when a child begins to grow into a young adult and experiences many physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social developmental changes. There are three stages of adolescence, which include early adolescence (10 to 13 years), middle adolescence (14 to 17 years), and late adolescence/young adulthood (18 to 21 years and beyond).
Adolescence is the transitional period when a child begins to grow into a young adult and experiences many physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social developmental changes. There are three stages of adolescence, which include early adolescence (10 to 13 years), middle adolescence (14 to 17 years), and late adolescence/young adulthood (18 to 21 years and beyond).

Adolescence is the time in a young person’s life when they transition from childhood into young adulthood and experience physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social developmental changes. 

There are three primary developmental stages of adolescence:

  • Early adolescence (10 to 13 years)
    • Puberty begins in this stage
      • Children experience considerable physical growth and increased sexual interest
      • Body changes such as hair growth under the arms and near the genitals, breast development in females and enlargement of the testicles in males, starts to occur
        • These changes can start as early as age 8 for females and age nine for males
        • Girls may start their period around age 12
        • Body changes can cause both curiosity and anxiety
        • Children may question their gender identity during this stage, and it can be a challenging time for transgender children
    • Cognitive development at this stage
      • Adolescents at this stage tend to have concrete, black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking and a limited capacity for abstract thought
      • Thinking may be egocentric, and children this age may be self-conscious about their appearance and apprehensive about being judged by their peers
      • Intellectual interests expand, and early adolescents develop deeper moral thinking 
    • Pre-teens also feel an increased need for privacy
      • They explore how to be independent from their family and may push boundaries and react strongly when limits are enforced
  • Middle adolescence (14 to 17 years)
    • Puberty changes for both males and females continue
      • Males may have a growth spurt and some voice cracking as their voices lower
      • Physical growth for females slows and most have regular menstrual periods by this time
    • Interest in romantic and sexual relationships may start and teens may question and explore their sexual identity; masturbation may be a part of this sexual exploration and getting to know their body
    • Arguments with parents may increase as teens strive for more independence
      • Less time is spent with family and more time is spent with friends
      • Teens become more self-involved, appearances are important, and peer pressure can peak at this stage
    • The brain continues to mature and there is a growing capacity for abstract thought, though emotions often drive decision-making and they may act on impulse without thinking things through
    • During this stage, children may start to set long-term goals and become interested in the meaning of life and moral reasoning
  • Late adolescence/young adulthood (18 to 21 years and beyond)
    • This phase usually encompasses less physical development and more cognitive developments
      • Most have grown to their full adult height
    • In this stage, young people become able to think about ideas rationally, have impulse control and can delay gratification, and plan for the future
    • They have a stronger sense of identity and individuality and can identify their own values
    • They also experience increased independence, emotional stability, stability in friendships and romantic relationships, and may also establish an “adult relationship” with parents, looking to them less as authority figures and more as peers

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Reviewed on 6/8/2021
References
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Stages-of-Adolescence.aspx