(from Latin adolescere
, meaning "to grow up") is a transitional stage
of physical and psychological development that generally occurs during the period from puberty to legal adulthood (age of majority
). Adolescence is usually associated with the teenage years, but its physical, psychological or cultural expressions may begin earlier and end later. For example, puberty now typically begins during preadolescence, particularly in females. Physical growth (particularly in males), and cognitive
development can extend into the early twenties. Thus age provides only a rough
marker of adolescence, and scholars have found it difficult to agree upon a precise definition of adolescence.
A thorough understanding of adolescence in society depends on information from various perspectives, including psychology, biology, history, sociology, education, and anthropology. Within all of these perspectives, adolescence is viewed as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, whose cultural purpose is the preparation
of children for adult roles. It is a period of multiple transitions involving education, training, employment and unemployment, as well as transitions from one living circumstance to another.
The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country and by function. Furthermore, even within a single nation state
or culture there can be different ages at which an individual is considered (chronologically and legally) mature
enough for society to entrust them with certain privileges and responsibilities. Such milestones include driving a vehicle, having legal sexual relations, serving in the armed forces
or on a jury, purchasing and drinking alcohol
, voting, entering into contracts, finishing certain levels of education, and marriage. Adolescence is usually accompanied by an increased independence
allowed by the parents or legal guardians
, including less supervision as compared to preadolescence.
In studying adolescent development, adolescence can be defined biologically, as the physical transition marked by the onset of puberty and the termination
of physical growth; cognitively, as changes in the ability to think
abstractly and multi-dimensionally; or socially, as a period of preparation for adult roles. Major pubertal and biological changes include changes to the sex organs, height, weight, and muscle mass, as well as major changes in brain structure and organization. Cognitive advances encompass both increment
in knowledge and in the ability to think abstractly and to reason more effectively. The study of adolescent development often involves interdisciplinary collaborations. For example, researchers in neuroscience or bio-behavioral health might focus on pubertal changes in brain structure and its effects on cognition
or social relations. Sociologists interested in adolescence might focus on the acquisition of social roles (e.g., worker or romantic partner) and how this varies across cultures or social conditions. Developmental psychologists might focus on changes in relations with parents and peers
as a function of school structure and pubertal status.