Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Adolescence and Human Development

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Adolescence and Human Development

Article excerpt


Adolescence is the critical process in which the individual leaves the dependency of childhood and enters a period in which dramatic changes occur, eventually resulting in what society identifies as adulthood. It is a complex developmental time involving sociological, psychological, and physiological issues that initiates with puberty and finalizes sometime in the third decade of life with central nervous system maturation. It is a unique bridge which accepts the achievements and failures of childhood and sets in motion all changes necessary to establish adulthood. The goal of this period is to develop an autonomous adult who is capable of functioning at intellectual, sexual, and vocational levels acceptable to society.

We all have a stake in our adolescents, for they profoundly affect our present and will continue to affect our future. Prevention and management of health problems in children and adolescents can prevent considerable morbidity in adults. How we care for our children and youth says much about us as a global society, whether for good or for ill. How our children and adolescents are treated will determine much about the future of the world, as the 21st century unfolds into its second decade-its own adolescence!


According to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the terms child, adolescence, youth and young people have different meanings. For example, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years, unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

The period of adolescence refers to the second decade of life (ages 10-19), while youth refers to those between the ages of 15 years and 24 years; young people refers to those between 10 and 24 years of age.

Demography of adolescent population

Today's generation of young people is the largest in human history. There are 1.2 billion adolescents (ages 10-19 years) in the world, which is over 20% of the world's population; there are one billion humans who are between 15 and 24 years of age and about 50% of the world's population is now under 25 years old (1).

At the beginning of the 21st century in the United States there are over 300 million individuals, over 43 million of whom are adolescents (ages 10-19-14% of the population) and over 60 million of whom are 10 to 24 year olds (20%).

Despite the fact that the adolescent population in the United States is growing, the percentage of adolescents representing the total population is constantly decreasing due to the aging of America. Hispanic, African American, and Asian adolescent populations are rapidly increasing, when compared to Caucasian, English speaking youth.

Normal adolescent sexuality stages

Adolescent psychosocial development is typically divided into three classic periods: Early (10-13 years of age), Middle (14-16+ years of age), and Late (17-21+ years of age) Adolescence (see tables 1-3). The young adolescent resumes previously acquired interest in the development of interpersonal relationships. Typically, the youth approaches this from a narcissistic viewpoint in which the individual's interest comes first and concerns of others are not carefully considered. This "selfish" attitude starts with those of the same sex and extends to those of the opposite sex during mid-adolescence. First, there is exploration of one's own body linked with concerns of normality, and then comes the comparison with peers of the same gender. Interest in the opposite sex usually eventually occurs.

Considerable energy is spent acquiring social skills and friendships with same-sex individuals. Thus, boys tend to develop groups of males who engage in various behaviors, as each member challenges the others in diverse aspects of adolescence. Definitions of masculinity are tested and confirmed within such groups. Homosexual experimentation and considerable false braggadocio about sexuality are quite common. …

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