For years, researchers have worked to help parents gain clarity as to the stages of adolescence and what they can expect as their children go through it.
The first stage, known as “early adolescence,” is one where our children go through drastic physical and emotional changes that affect their daily life.
When our children first begin to go through these changes, it can be a confusing and scary time for both them and us (the parents).
And while we know that each stage has its own set of challenges for both kids and parents, understanding how to recognize the different stages gives us an opportunity to help our children navigate through them.
To help with that, let’s break down each stage and take a more in-depth look at what we should expect.
The 3 Stages of Adolescence: Early, Middle, and Late
As we mentioned previously, adolescence is broken down into three stages that make up the age period between 10-21.
When it comes to age, most researchers agree that each stage lasts around 3-4 years. On paper, it looks like this:
● Early Adolescence – 10-14 years old
● Middle Adolescence – 15-17 years old
● Late Adolescence – 18-21 years old
During each stage, varying levels of physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development begin to take place.
Let’s dive deeper into the changes in development that you can expect throughout each stage.
1Early Adolescence (10-14 Years Old)
● Physical Development. At this stage, children are entering puberty. Hair growth, body odor, and menstruation begin to happen. For girls, their breasts start to develop. Boys often develop lower voices.
● Intellectual Development. When children enter adolescence, they’re generally still very focused on the present and cannot consider the long-term consequences of what they do or say.
● Emotional Development. Due to the many physical changes that they go through at this stage, it can be quite the emotional rollercoaster. Low self-esteem, mood swings, aggression, and even depression are common.
● Social Development. While most social interaction likely happened with family and close friends before this stage, kids generally start to expand their social interactions to groups of peers outside the “inner circle” dynamic at this point.
2Middle Adolescence (15-17 Years Old)
● Physical Development. At this point, most children reach their adult height. Males often begin to focus on exercising and grooming. Females at this stage tend to be be very aware of their physical appearance, too.
● Intellectual Development. As children move to this stage, they generally develop the ability to think through and solve complex problems for the first time. They also become more willing and able to think about the future and what it holds for them.
● Emotional Development. This can be a weird emotional time as they’ll often be striving for independence while at the same time craving the security provided by you (the parents) and their home.
● Social Development. At this point, there’s typically a focus on finding peer groups and friends that they can confide in. Also, this is generally the first time they think about forming romantic relationships.
3Late Adolescence (18-21 Years Old)
● Physical Development. While much of their physical development will be over at this point, it’s often the case that they become more interested in fitness and maintaining a strong and attractive physical appearance.
● Intellectual Development. By this stage, they’re often able to see the “bigger picture” and develop a better understanding of how their choices and actions affect their long-term future. It’s also often the case that they begin to develop “street smarts” at this stage.
● Emotional Development. At this point, they’ll generally begin to develop more confidence in themselves as their social circles expand and romantic relationships become front-of-mind. This can also be a very stressful time, as it’s often the first time they’re forced to think about their career choice.
● Social Development. As they near the end of adolescence and begin to develop more confidence, it’s often the case that their social circles begin to expand beyond the “cliques” that were common during their middle adolescence.
While this guide has hopefully given you a better idea of how to recognize the stages of adolescence, it’s important to emphasize that each child is different.
This is especially true when it comes to the type of development that each child experiences.
For example, a 14-year-old girl may experience physical development that gives her the appearance of a 21-year-old but may not develop socially or emotionally until much later in adolescence.
Along with an understanding that each child develops differently, hopefully, this breakdown has given you a better idea of what you can expect your child to go through during each phase of development.
When we can recognize and understand each stage, we can be better equipped to help our children navigate through their teens and into adulthood.
And we can make it much less stressful for everyone involved.