Adolescence: what it is and when it begins

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Adolescence, what is it

Adolescence is a very delicate age and is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood during which significant physical and psychological changes occur. Boys and girls start having their own ideas and reach sexual maturity. Let's try to investigate in detail some aspects of this particular and complex period of life. It will be useful for those with children who are about to enter their teens or who are already teenagers.

In this article

  • when it starts and ends
  • physical changes
  • advice to parents
  • self-esteem in adolescents

Adolescence, when it begins and when it ends

When it starts

As adolescence begins, sex hormones begin to be produced by certain glands in the body. Usually women start producing them at the age of 11 or 12 years, while for males this happens a little later, between 12 and 13 years. It is the sex hormones that initiate a series of physical transformations, such as, for example, increasing height.

When it ends

Still from the physical point of view, adolescence ends approximately around 18 20-years. He then takes over into adulthood.

According to recent research, published last year in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, puberty now begins at 10 and adolescence ends at 24. And the age of starting to fend for oneself and entering adulthood is moving further and further. From 1973 to the present day, for example, the average age at which men form a family has gone up by eight years: according to the British Office of NationaL Statistics, it is 32,5 for men and 30,6 for women. In Del Paese?

The data is provided by Istat, the national statistical institute. In 2022, the average age of first birth for a woman was 31,7 years.

Adolescents and physical changes

In girls

In girls, the first changes concern the breast, which begins to form with the development of the breast button and areola.

Among the changes:

  • females grow in height earlier than male companions,
  • the body takes round shapes,
  • the breasts appear,
  • the hips widen.

For further information: female puberty

In boys

In boys, on the other hand, there is an enlargement of their own genitals: the testicles develop first and then, even after one year, the penis. «Around the age of 12, the boy gradually loses his childish features, grows in height, changes the timbre of his voice. In reality, all these external elements correspond to an internal change »explained psychologist Anna Oliviero Ferraris in a recent interview on

For further information: male puberty

Males and females also begin to see thicker hair appear, although in boys this change is much more pronounced and also involves the face. Sometimes acne occurs for some and all begin to gain in stature.

The arrival of the first period (which should arrive by the age of sixteen) for girls it marks the end of puberty, while for boys the border is less marked.

READ ALSO: Male and female puberty, phases and signs and Adolescents on a diet, 10 tips from the nutritionist

Teenage children, advice to parents

Suddenly your child, from a shy and sweet child, has turned into a grumpy kid: adolescence has arrived! Here are 5 tips for parents from the psychotherapist, author of numerous essays (on the topic: Enough! The rules for facing the challenges and risks of adolescence, Kowalski Editore):
  1. The parent must be available to "play the game" with the adolescent child, investing in the relationship attention, energy and ability to get involved.
  2. We must not give in to all requests, but we need to negotiate. If the parent gives in to any kind of request and gives everything immediately at 15, without setting any stakes, he will no longer be able to do it later.
  3. The parent's attitude towards the child it should change based on the situation or problem that needs to be addressed. Always being rigid, overly protective, or friendly doesn't lend itself well to every different moment in a teenager's life.
  4. Faced with the increasingly pressing demands of the child, the adult must have one containment function. This means that the parent must be some kind of "filter".
  5. Every situation in the life of the teenager always requires careful evaluation by the adult.
Read also: how the mind of adolescents works READ ALSO:
  • Adolescent children, 5 straight to parents;
  • Teenagers in crisis and spoiled, 8 tips
  • Teenagers, what they risk in passing from middle school to high school

Adolescence, tips to increase self-esteem

It is not always easy to relate to your children when they become teenagers and make sure they become calm and confident in their abilities. Here are some tips suggested in our articles "adolescents, 10 tips to develop self-esteem" and "adolescence and pre-adolescence, how to defend yourself from criticism" by the psychologist and psychotherapist Rossana Schiralli.
  1. Even in pre-adolescence and adolescence the boy must be "mirrored": this does not mean always indulging his every whim, but showing that he understands his feelings, even those that are wrong in our eyes. Let's not belittle it, but let's try to understand it.
  2. Do not judge or criticize when he thinks or does something that is not right for you. Instead, encourage him to explain his reasoning better.
  3. Don't just ask him questions, instead try to listen carefully.
  4. When he gets out of school, don't just ask for homework, but ask more general questions, about how it was, if the lesson was interesting: you will show him that for him it is valid for what he is, not for the grade taken.
  5. Do not treat him as if he were still a child: entrust him with the first small responsibilities, let him choose how to dress, let him go and buy the notebook himself at the stationery, etc. Thus you will show him that you consider him capable.
  6. Don't give them "labels" related to character ("You are lazy", "you are listless", etc.) Up to almost 24 years the brain is a building site that can be shaped and modified.
  7. Don't flatter it all the time. But every now and then tell him that you are happy with him. You will reward him in the right way.

READ ALSO: Teens, 10 tips to develop self-esteem and Teens, how to defend themselves from judgments and criticisms

The letter your teenager cannot write to you

"I need to fight with you and I need you to fight me. But I also desperately need you to keep the other end of the rope. And I know you miss that sweet little boy I was. I know, because that I miss baby too and this nostalgia is what makes everything so painful now. "

Here's what a teenager would (but never will) write to their parent.

Questions and answers

What is adolescence?

Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood during which physical and psychological changes occur.

When does adolescence begin?

It begins approximately between 10 and 11 years.

When does adolescence end?

It ends approximately around 18-20 years.

  • teens
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