Life Span > Human Growth and Development > Adolescence and Adulthood > Adolescence

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What You'll Learn

After you finish this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain developmental tasks typical of adolescent development.
  • Identify health issues for the adolescent stage.


Adolescence generally occurs between the ages of 11 and 20. However, most attention is paid to the first half of this stage of development. As in all stages of development, adolescents experience similar challenges, but at their own, individual rate. Adolescence is a time of transitioning from childhood to adulthood in each area of development.


Adolescence: Physical Development

Both males and females experience the changes of puberty during adolescence. However, their experiences are very different. Puberty is the biological changes that result in reproductive maturity and an adult-sized body.



Females generally begin puberty earlier than boys do. Girls can begin as early as age 10. During puberty, girls will gain up to 40 pounds and grow as much as 10 inches. This rapid gain in height and weight is called a growth spurt and is typical of adolescents. Females begin to menstruate at some point during puberty. Menstruation is a sign of reproductive maturity in females, which means that they are physically able to bear children. Secondary sexual characteristics also develop during this time.


Males typically begin puberty later than females do. Boys can begin puberty as early as age 12. Like girls, boys also experience a growth spurt. Boys will grow much taller and gain considerable weight, primarily in muscle mass. Their reproductive organs mature and they develop secondary sexual characteristics.


Males and females experience puberty the same way.

  • True
  • False



Which is the correct term for the extreme gains in height and weight experienced during puberty?

  • Development gain
  • Development spurt
  • Growth increase
  • Growth spurt
  • Growth explosion

Growth spurt


Adolescence: Intellectual Development

Adolescents develop better critical thinking skills, which enable them to interpret and evaluate information. This ability helps them with schoolwork and in making wise decisions now and in the future. It also enables them to make better organized and more effective arguments. Adolescents are generally idealistic about the world around them. However, they also become more critical, particularly when the world does not live up to their ideals.


Which of the following is true of adolescent intellectual development?

  • Better critical thinking skills
  • Idealistic about the world around them
  • More critical
  • All of the above

All of the above


Adolescence: Emotional Development

Adolescence is a challenging and confusing time for many young people. They seek to establish their identities. Identity is their understanding of their individuality and the image they have of themselves. Many teens spend hours in front of the mirror studying themselves. They are not yet comfortable with the changing bodies they see reflected there. They are self-conscious and often influenced by the thought that everyone is watching them. They are often and easily embarrassed.


Which of the following is true of adolescent emotional development?

  • Seek to establish their identities
  • Disinterest in physical appearance
  • Comfortable with their bodies
  • Confident
  • All of the above
  • Seek to establish their identities

Adolescence: Social Development

Despite the challenges of adolescents, most teens enjoy it very much. They love to socialize with their friends. Friends at this stage are alike in many ways, and yet each one of them is developing into a unique individual. They each develop their own sense of morals and values largely based on what their parents have taught them. Their morals and values can help them respond appropriately to peer pressure. Adolescents also develop an awareness and interest in the opposite sex.


Which of the following is true of adolescent social development?

  • Love to socialize with parents
  • Develop their own sense of morals and values
  • Lack of awareness and interest in the opposite sex
  • All of the above
  • Develop their own sense of morals and values


Secondary sexual characteristics


Growth spurt



Better critical thinking skills

More effective arguments


More critical of the world




Uncomfortable with body

Easily embarrassed

Seek to establish identity



Respond to peer pressure

Socialize with friends

Develop sense of values

Interest in the opposite sex


Adolescent Health Issues

The majority of adolescent health issues stem from feelings of inadequacy. These issues are displayed in the form of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder. People with anorexia eat nothing or much less than the average person. Anorexia results in extreme weight loss, weakness, and even death as the body's systems begin to shut down. Bulimia is also a psychological disorder. Bulimia is marked by extreme binge eating followed by periods of fasting. In some cases, people with bulimia will make themselves vomit or take laxatives after binging to get rid of food. This extreme is sometimes called bulimarexia.

Another health issue for teens that can result from feelings of inadequacy is chemical abuse. Chemical abuse is the abuse and dependency on alcohol or drugs. Adolescents turn to these substances for stress relief, because of peer pressure, or to escape from problems. They might also try drugs or alcohol as experimentation. Heredity can also have some impact on teens and chemical abuse. Chemical abuse can result in physical or mental disorders and even death. Teens with chemical abuse problems are treated through rehabilitation.

Suicide is also a health concern for adolescents. Suicide is sometimes referred to as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Although people of any stage of life can commit suicide, it is a leading cause of death in adolescence. Teens might commit suicide because of depression, heartbreak, failure in school, failure to meet expectations, suicidal friends or heroes, suicide in the family, and impulsivity.


Which of the following is a health issue for the adolescent stage of development?

  • Suicide
  • Chemical abuse
  • Bulimia
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • All of the above

All of the above


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you learned that:

  • Adolescence generally occurs between the ages of 11 and 20.
  • Adolescence is a time of transitioning from childhood to adulthood in each area of development.
  • Health issues concerning adolescents include eating disorders, chemical abuse, and suicide.

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