adolescence, time of life from onset of puberty to full adulthood. The exact period of adolescence, which varies from person to person, falls approximately between the ages 12 and 20 and encompasses both physiological and psychological changes. Physiological changes lead to sexual maturity and usually occur during the first several years of the period. This process of physical changes is known as puberty, and it generally takes place in girls between the ages of 8 and 14, and boys between the ages of 9 and 16. In puberty, the pituitary gland increases its production of gonadotropins, which in turn stimulate the production of predominantly estrogen in girls, and predominantly testosterone in boys. Estrogen and testosterone are responsible for breast development, hair growth on the face and body, and deepening voice. These physical changes signal a range of psychological changes, which manifest themselves throughout adolescence, varying significantly from person to person and from one culture to another. Psychological changes generally include questioning of identity and achievement of an appropriate sex role; movement toward personal independence; and social changes in which, for a time, the most important factor is peer group relations. Adolescence in Western societies tends to be a period of rebellion against adult authority figures, often parents or school officials, in the search for personal identity. Many psychologists regard adolescence as a byproduct of social pressures specific to given societies, not as a unique period of biological turmoil. In fact, the classification of a period of life as "adolescence" is a relatively recent development in many Western societies, one that is not recognized as a distinct phase of life in many other cultures.

See T. Hine, The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference
Sharon L. Nichols; Thomas L. Good.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith; Melinda Lundquist Denton.
Oxford University Press, 2005
Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers
Mark D. Regnerus.
Oxford University Press, 2007
Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption
Murray Milner Jr.
Routledge, 2004
Music and New Technologies as Specific Language of Teenagers
Zalys, Vytautas.
American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal, Vol. 4, No. 5, September 2012
Expanding Policy Options for Educating Teenagers
Stern, David.
The Future of Children, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2009
Internet Abuse among Teenagers and Its Relations to Internet Usage Patterns and Demographics
Gencer, Suzan Lema; Koc, Mustafa.
Educational Technology & Society, Vol. 15, No. 2, April 2012
Victimization and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among Runaway and Homeless Adolescents
Whitbeck, Les B.; Hoyt, Dan R.; Johnson, Kurt D.; Chen, Xiaojin.
Violence and Victims, Vol. 22, No. 6, January 1, 2007
Urban Girls Revisited: Building Strengths
Bonnie J. Ross Leadbeater; Niobe Way.
New York University Press, 2007
Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens
Brad Christerson; Korie L. Edwards; Richard Flory.
Stanford University Press, 2010
Becoming Adult: How Teenagers Prepare for the World of Work
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Barbara Schneider.
Basic Books, 2000
Twentieth-Century Teen Culture by the Decades: A Reference Guide
Lucy Rollin.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Teenagers: An American History
Grace Palladino.
Basic Books, 1996
From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural
Lynn Schofield Clark.
Oxford University Press, 2003
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