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© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Adolescence: A Social Psychological Analysis
Hans Sebald.
Prentice-Hall, 1992 (4th edition)
Adolescence: Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives
Benjamin B. Wolman.
Greenwood Press, 1998
The World's Youth: Adolescence in Eight Regions of the Globe
B. Bradford Brown; Reed W. Larson; T. S. Saraswathi.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Safe Passage: Making It through Adolescence in a Risky Society
Joy G. Dryfoos.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Adolescents' Health: A Developmental Perspective
Inge Seiffge-Krenke.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Identity in Adolescence: The Balance between Self and Other
Jane Kroger.
Routledge, 2004 (3rd edition)
Stress, Coping, and Relationships in Adolescence
Inge Seiffge-Krenke.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Development during the Transition to Adolescence
Megan R. Gunnar; W. Andrew Collins.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988
Evolutionary Principles of Human Adolescence
Glenn E. Weisfeld.
Basic Books, 1999
Transitions through Adolescence: Interpersonal Domains and Context
Julia A. Graber; Jeanne Brooks-Gunn; Anne C. Petersen.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Twelve to Sixteen: Early Adolescence
Jerome Kagan; Robert Coles.
W. W. Norton, 1972
Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts
Lisa J. Crockett; Ann C. Crouter.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Helping Teenagers into Adulthood: A Guide for the Next Generation
George R. Holmes.
Praeger, 1995
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