Stages of adolescent development


Dr KK Aggarwal    25 June 2018

Adolescence heralds a period of physical and psychological changes in the body. Such is the multitude of these transitions, including an expression of sexual behaviors, that even the adolescent may have difficulty in pinpointing should something be amiss. This makes the knowledge and ability to notice varying problems of different stages of adolescence absolutely essential.

There are three stages of adolescent development: early, middle and late. This staging is based on chronologic age and level of functioning of the adolescent.

  1. Early adolescence covers age group 10 to 14 years. It begins with the onset of puberty and is characterized by concrete thinking, preoccupations and insecurities surrounding the physical changes, which the body is undergoing, and an egocentric approach to sexuality. This is the stage when the young adolescent is curious about the transformation that the body is going through and is aware of his/her gender resulting in initiating sexual experimentation with masturbation or early sexual activity with same- or opposite-gender sexual partners.
  2. In middle adolescence (15-18 years), the physical pubertal changes are complete by now. The adolescent may have more romantic relationships with several partners at once or may be monogamous. Although they start comprehending the outcomes of their action, they still do not realize the full impact of the consequence of their actions. Middle adolescence is characterized by risk-taking behaviors such as substance use and unprotected sexual activity. Teen pregnancies are common in this stage. It is important to educate them about contraception, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, sexual violence, substance abuse so that they can protect themselves.
  3. Late adolescence includes age group 18 years and older. Late adolescents are less inclined to risk behavior as they have more mature social skills, empathy, and an understanding of risks and consequences that help them develop more intimate and serious relationships. They are now capable of developing close interpersonal and social relationships and also develop connection and purpose with the community. But, substance use in the earlier stages of adolescence may continue to this stage and even to adulthood.


Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

Vice President CMAAO

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA

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