CH FBR 002

Understanding adolescence: Frontline Briefing (2014)

Published: 11/11/2014

Author: Coleman J


In 1904 G Stanley Hall first described a new developmental phase of adolescence. With the introduction of child labour laws and universal education, the adolescent years opened up as a period when young people did not have to take up adult responsibilities. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines adolescence as the ‘transitional period between puberty and adulthood’ occurring between the ages of ten and 19 (although youth is defined as being between 15 and 24). This is a useful definition, but leaves open questions relating to the age of puberty and definitions of adulthood.

Further complications arise because the boundaries of adolescence change over time (Arnett, 2004; Coleman, 2011). In some respects adolescence can be seen to be starting earlier and ending later than was the case for previous generations. Puberty for some girls starts before the age of ten. At the other end of the scale, as a result of the changing job market, many individuals in late adolescence or early adulthood remain dependent on their parents.

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