Adolescence

Many people imagine an adolescent as being a gangly, awkward, and troublesome individual. Research ers shared this view until quite recently. This period of life (generally considered to run from age ten to age twenty-five) was seen as a time of ''storm and stress.'' But what is adolescent development really like? Clearly it is a time of great change on many levels. Probably most dramatic are the biological changes associated with puberty. These changes include dramatic shifts in the shape of the body, increases in hormones, and changes in brain architecture. These biological shifts are directly linked to changes in sexual interest, cognitive capacities, and physical capacities. There are also major social changes associated with the school-linked transitions and with changes in the roles adolescents are expected to play by all those around them. Finally, there are major psychological changes linked to increasing social and cognitive maturity. In fact, very few developmental periods are characterized by so many changes at so many different levels. With rapid change comes a heightened potential for both positive and negative outcomes. And, although most individuals pass through this developmental period without excessively high levels of ''storm and stress,'' a substantial number of individuals do experience some difficulties.

Adolescence is also a time when individuals make many choices and engage in a wide range of behaviors likely to influence the rest of their lives. For example, adolescents pick which high school courses to take, which after-school activities to participate in, and which peer groups to join. They begin to make future educational and occupational plans and to implement these plans through secondary school course work and out-of-school vocational and volunteer activity choices. Finally, some experiment with quite problematic behaviors such as drug and alcohol consumption and unprotected sexual intercourse. Most of these youth do not suffer long-term consequences for this experimentation, although a few do. Understanding what distinguishes between these two groups is one of the key research issues related to development during adolescence.

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