Adolescence is one of the most complex and difficult times we go through in our lifetimes. It is a stage of growth in which we stop being children to be adults, we begin to acquire more and more responsibilities and become more independent and as we forge our identity.
The last stage of adolescence, the years before properly entering adulthood, this is what some authors call the end of adolescence. It is this evolutionary moment that we will be talking about throughout this article.
Adolescence: a time of change
The transition from childhood to adulthood it is a stage of development characterized by the presence of a large number of changes, both physically, mentally and socially. This stage ends towards the end of adolescence, but before it occurs, many phenomena occur which allow a better understanding.
First of all, the onset of puberty imposes itself as the moment which will mark the onset of adolescence and in which they start to generate different changes due to the action of the neuroendocrine system (Especially before the activation of the hypothalamus and pituitary) and the stimulation of the production and action of sex hormones derived from it in men and women.
The body grows (unevenly) and the bones and muscles are strengthened and developed, the primary sexual characteristics (mainly the internal and external genitalia and the appearance of the first menstruation / pollution) and secondary (hair) develop on the face, body and pubis, voice changes, breast growth). This growth has accelerated from the start, although it slows down slowly over the years.
At the cognitive level and as the prefrontal cortex develops, the adolescent gradually acquires ability to control and manage oneself, mental flexibility, ability to inhibit and select one’s behavior and seek and organize their own goals and motivations, plan and anticipate results.
Childish egocentrism gives way to a different egocentrism, characterized by the presence of omnipotent thoughts in the form of a personal fable and the creation of the imaginary audience (consider that others observe and value our behavior). As the subject matures, this egocentrism has gradually diminished in most cases.
Creating your own identity
But without a doubt, one of the most important psychological milestones of this vital stage is the acquisition of an identity of its own and distinct from the rest of the world. The adolescent stops seeing based solely on what the rest of the world considers him to be and builds a self-concept, beginning to value his own complexity and wanting to experiment in order to find himself. It is at this stage that the subject begins to seek social engagement and greater independence.
there are certain separation from family and they tend to focus more on the group of friends, these elements being essential to develop aspects of identity and a sense of social belonging. Likewise, society is starting to give them more and more responsibility and demand more.
All this makes that all of the changes that adolescents have to face can become very stressful and difficult for them to cope with, being a particularly sensitive stage of development.
Late adolescence: what is it?
Adolescence can be divided into several stages: Early adolescence between eleven and thirteen (when puberty usually occurs), mid-adolescence between the ages of fourteen and sixteen / seventeen, and late adolescence, which we will see below. below.
It is considered to be the end of adolescence at the stage of development immediately preceding adulthood, after most of adolescence. More precisely, the end of adolescence is identified with the second half of the second decade of life, in a period that can vary between 15 and 21 years (Some authors consider that it goes from 15 to 19, others propose between 17 and 21).
At this vital stage, most of the most important maturation changes at the physical level are considered to have already occurred (being more typical of early to mid-adolescence), although this does not imply that the body does not. not continue to develop.
Cognitive field and maturation
In terms of cognitive and social aspects, it is considered that by the end of adolescence, the most abstract thinking and the ability to assess the repercussions of their actions are already established.
It is a much more stable stage than those which precede it, characterized by a much more adult thought and centered not so much on the present and on the immediacy as on the future. Identity is largely consolidated and you already have established values (Although they may vary over time). The presence of strong idealism and enthusiasm is common, although uncertainty and anxiety as well as psychological and health issues can also arise.
Sometimes there may be a small crisis (the so-called 21-year-old crisis, although it is more and more delayed in today’s society), in which the teenager begins to cope with the demands. of the adult at the level of work, of the partner and of social participation.
Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that we are still teenagers and some aspects are not yet fully developed, even at the biological level (For example, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed for at least 25 years in most people, or even beyond 30).
In terms of personal relationships, greater stability and less experimentation emerge than at other times in adolescence, and at the relational level, contact with the large group is no longer sought but more attention is usually paid to person-to-person relationships and intimacy (both in romantic and friendly relationships).
They are much more independent both in the family setting and in the peer group (although both remain very important) and their values and actions no longer depend so much on what others see. With regard to the family, the separation operated during the first moments of adolescence is reduced and the link with the original family environment is restored. Their involvement in the community is much greater and this is usually the time when they want to “eat the world”.
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