The origin of the word Adolescence is from the Latin verb ‘adolescence’, which means, “to grow up.” It can be defined as the transitional stage of development between childhood and full adulthood, representing the period of time during which a person is biologically adult but emotionally not at full maturity.
It represents the period of time during which a juvenile matures into adulthood. Major physiologic, cognitive, and behavioural changes take place during this period. During the period of adolescence, biological development and psychosocial development overlap. A person’s body undergoes dramatic changes.
According to Erik Erikson’s stages of human development, for example, a young adult is generally a person between the age of 20 and 40, whereas an adolescent is a person between the age of 13 and 19. Historically, puberty has been heavily associated with teenagers and the onset of adolescent development.
However, the start of puberty has had somewhat of an increase in preadolescence (particularly females, as seen with early and precocious puberty), and adolescence has had an occasional extension beyond the teenage years (typically males) compared to previous generations. These changes have made it more difficult to rigidly define the time frame in which adolescence occurs.
Adolescence is usually accompanied by an increased independence allowed by the parents or legal guardians and less supervision, contrary to the preadolescence stage.
Following are the chief characteristics of Adolescence :
(1) ‘Adolescence is a period of great stress and strain, storm and strike,’ according to Stanley Hall.
(2) Bigge and Hunt regard it a period of rapid change. ‘There is one word which best characteristics-change. The change is physiological, sociological and psychological.’
(3) According to Hadow Committee Report these is a tide which begins to rise in the veins of youth at the age of eleven or twelve.
There is enough truth in these statements but not the complete truth. These statements help the teacher in gaining an understanding of the psychology of adolescence. But precise knowledge about adolescence is needed -by every teacher whether he is a teacher of primary or elementary or the higher secondary school or a lecturer of a college.
The primary school teacher needs the precise knowledge about adolescence because his children will become adolescents as they pass out of the primary school. He has to help them develop skills and attitudes that will prepare them for this stage of development. The middle school teacher needs the precise knowledge of this phase of development because some of his pupils are entering adolescence. The high school teacher needs the exact knowledge because he has to deal with them.
The uniqueness of adolescents lies not in their adolescence. They are unique as all individuals are unique and as all children and adults are unique.
By some psychologists adolescence has been defined as a period of rapid growth and perplexity. This is a half truth about adolescence. In fact the period is one of decreasing rather than increasing growth rates. Just before adolescence you have a period of rapid growth and it is a period of ‘growth spurt’.
But even in pre-adolescence period we do not have such a growth rate as we have during pre-natal period, or during the first year after birth.
There may be periodic changes in growth rates, but there are never such changes as may totally transform a person. Changes occur in adulthood and later years as they occur in childhood or in adolescence. No period in an individual’s life is more important than the other.
Each period is the outcome of what has previously occurred arid what will follow next. Adolescence thus is a period of an individual’s life which is the result of childhood and a preparation for adulthood.
There is similarly half truth in the statement that adolescence is a period of stress and strain. We shall come to the point again when we deal with emotional and social problems faced by adolescents. But many of these problems are not the problems raised by adolescents; they are the products of culture, home or society’s impositions.