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Adolescence is the transitional stage of development between childhood and full adulthood, representing the period of time during which a person is biologically adult but emotionally not at full maturity. The ages which are considered to be part of adolescence vary by culture. In the United States, adolescence is generally considered to begin around age 13, and end around 24. By contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines adolescence as the period of life between 10 and 20 years of age.

"Adolescence" is a cultural and social phenomenon and therefore its endpoints are not easily defined tied to physical milestones. The word derives from the Latin verb adolescere meaning "to grow up." The time is identified with dramatic changes in the body, along with developments in a person's psychology and academic career. In the onset of adolescence, children usually complete elementary school and enter secondary education, such as middle school or high school.

During this period of life, most children go through the physical stages of puberty, which often begin after a person has completed 9 years-old and before has reached the age of 13. Most cultures regard people as becoming adults at various ages of the teenage years. For example, Jewish tradition considers people to be adult members of the community at age 13, and this transition is celebrated in the bar (or bat) mitzvah ceremony. Usually, there is a formal age of majority when adolescents formally become adults. For example, Japan's celebration of this in January is called the coming of age (or 成人式) (see Japanese calendar)...



Puberty, occurring in the beginning of adolescence, is the stage in the human lifespan when a child begins to develop adult secondary sex characteristics as their hormone balance shifts towards an adult state. Briefly, this is caused by the pituitary gland that secretes hormones into the blood stream which trigger growth in the gonads: the girl's ovaries and the boy's testicles. In female adolescents, the first menstrual period is called menarche.

In most Western countries, the average age of menarche fell in the last century, primarily because of improved nutrition and increased caloric intake. Girls tend to go through puberty a year earlier than boys.


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The word preteen describes a child a bit younger than a teenager: perhaps between the ages of about 8 and 12. The neologism tween has the same meaning. This word comes from the age being between that of a young child and a teenager.

Preteens are increasingly a specifically targeted market segment by business, because they tend to maintain the preferences they develop at this age. Even mobile phones are targeted toward this group. Also, because tweens are almost invariantly financially dependent (and because less autonomy is expected of them, in the United States, than of teenagers), they have access to parental income that is often more abundant than that of most teenagers and young adults.

Tweenage is the age where children begin to have more responsibilities and begin to want more respect as people. Because of the emergence of greater awareness of social orders and groups, this is a very unstable area of development. Preteens often feel like they're not one thing or another and feel left out. To a girl in her late tweens, fashion and hygiene (and sometimes the eating disorders that develop as a result of over-concern about these things) come to be a bigger part of her life, and boys start to look good. To a tweenage boy, sports and hanging out tend to matter more in the late tweens. Early tweenhood is practically childhood, but the child has grown up slightly into a more mature person.


A teenager or teen is a person whose age is a number ending in "-teen" in the English language: that is to say, someone from the age of thirteen to the age of nineteen. The word is of recent origin, only having appeared in the mid 20th century. In Western culture, a distinct youth culture has developed. This culture is often considered inferior to the mainstream culture, or in rebellion against it, and is thus often referred to as a subculture or counterculture.

Discrimination against adolescents

Some adolescents and adults believe that people between the ages of 10 and 18 (or 21 or 25) are subjected to unjust discrimination. This form of discrimination is increasingly referred to as adultism. It is also called ageism, though that is simply prejudice on the grounds of age, not youth particularly. The underlying notion is that adolescents should be treated with equal respect as individuals by adults, institutions, and the law on the basis of their humanity, rather than being seen as "second-class citizens," intellectually inferior, or as the property of adults. This discimination takes many forms, including lack of citizenship rights such as voting and the right to hold political office, as well as cultural, economic, and systemic disenfrachisement.

There is also ongoing discrimination against adolescents in the areas of incarceration, education, and military recruitment, particularly youth of color and low-income youth. These young people face systemic and cultural barriers that often precede their right to due process in the law and equal educational opportunities. Research has illustrated wide discrepancies in the rates of African American and Latino youth incarceration in comparison to white youth with similar crimes; similar aberrations affect low-income youth. Statistical evidence also proves wide discrepancies between youth of color and white youth in the high school graduation rates and in higher education, as well as in military recruitment rates.

Research has proven that social stratification between age groups causes stereotypeing and generalization; for instance, the media-perpetuated myth that all adolescents are equally immature, violent and rebellious. This has led to growing number of youth, academics, researchers, and other adults rallying against adultism and ageism; some have organized education programs, protest statements, and organizations.

Psychology of adolescents

Maturity in body leads to an interest in sexual activities, sometimes leading to teenage pregnancy. Since they may not be emotionally mature enough or financially able to support children, the latter is usually considered problematic.

At this age there is also a greater probability of drug abuse and alcohol abuse, or mental problems such as schizophrenia, eating disorders and depression. The emotional instability among some adolescents also sometimes causes youth crime.

Search for a unique identity (social science) is one of the problems that adolescents often face.

At this age, role models such as sports players, rock stars and movie and television performers are very popular, and adolescents often express a desire to be like their chosen role model. For this reason, people who are considered role models are often heavily criticised for their behavior, because in our time they are, we might say almost without exception, not socially conscious enough for the standard to which most children are held by most parents today. Of course, this doesn't mean that proper upbringing and an inspired life are contradictions; but there rages an argument about how soon one must make room for the other.

Social significance

In commerce, this generation is seen as an important target. Cellular phones, contemporary popular music, movies, television programs, video games and clothes are heavily marketed and often popular amongst adolescents.

In the past (and still in some cultures) there were ceremonies that celebrate adulthood, typically occurring during adolescence. Genpuku (translated as coming of age) in Japan is an instance.

Teenagers have also been an important factor in many movements for positive social change around the world. The popular history of adolescents participating in these movements may perhaps start with Joan of Arc, and extend to present times with popular youth activism, student activism, and other efforts to make youth voice heard.

Legal issues

In many countries, those over a certain age (perhaps 18, though this varies) are legally considered responsible adults. Those who are under the age of legal responsibility may be considered too young to be held accountable for criminal action. This is called the defense of infancy.

The issue of youth activism is of growing significance around the world. Youth-led organizations around the world have fought for social justice, the youth vote seeking to gain teenagers the right to vote, secure more youth rights, and demand better schools through student activism.

Youth are also becoming more involved in community leadership, governance, and service. Volunteerism among youth is at a record high, while student voice in schools and youth voice in communities is being engaged in community organizations, government boards, and in youth-serving nonprofit staffs and leadership.

The sale of selected items such as cigarettes, alcohol, videos, and video games with sexual or violent content, is often prohibited based on age. Such age restrictions vary widely. In practice, it is common that young people engage in underage smoking or drinking, and in some cultures this is tolerated to a certain degree. In the United States, teenagers are usually allowed to drive at 16, but cannot legally purchase or consume alcohol until 21. In Europe it is more common for the driving age to be higher (18, usually) while the drinking age is lower. The traditional age of full majority in the U.S. is 21 and, until recently (see: Twenty-sixth amendment) people were not legally allowed to vote until this age. At present, citizens may vote at 18 and usually can run in local and state elections at that age (and sometimes do; in rare cases, high school students have run for school board positions). One must be 25, however, to serve in the House of Representatives and 30 to serve in the Senate, or 35 to serve as the President of the United States.

Fiction about teenagers

List of famous teenagers

List of people who achieved fame in their teens

External links

  • Pro-Youth ( - A firm text against ageism towards teenagers, presenting a case of ageism committed by a jury.
  • Everyone deserves to be given a chance ( - An essay against ageism towards teenagers, written by a Canadian adolescent.

See also


Compare with

fr:Adolescence he:גיל ההתבגרות nl:Adolescentie pl:Dojrzewanie sv:Ton�ring

Online Teen Magazine


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