The Developments in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

Last Updated: 20 Jun 2022
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Nothing is constant for everything in the world is impermanent. Everything in this world eventually undergoes some form of change. As the world changes, the people also go through essential changes. Children suddenly grow into teenagers and the teenagers become adults. People grow old and the cycle goes on. Thus, various disciplines, such as psychology, categorize human life into several stages, which are determined by age. Each stage has its distinguishable characteristics that aim to describe the attributes of the particular group of individuals.

Every person passes through each stage of life. This includes infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. People pass through every stage of development until they reach old age. Under each stage, they experience vital changes in the different aspects of their lives, including physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social aspects of development. Adolescence is considered one of the most crucial stages of the human life. It is the pivotal point where people search for their individuality and determine who they are.

This is the reason why the term “teenage crisis” was developed, as adolescence is the period when a person goes through many significant changes physically, socially, and emotionally. Physical Development in Adolescence Adolescents include people under the age bracket of 13 to 18 years old. During this stage, people experience mixed emotions such as happiness and anxiety, as this the time when people outgrow their childish ways and start facing responsibilities. Puberty marks the biological and physiological maturation of one's body.

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Various changes could be seen in children who enter this transition. Growth is one of the changes a person experiences during the transition between childhood and adult life. In the case of girls, they begin to rapidly increase in height and achieve almost 98% of their full height at the age of 16. On the other hand, the boys’ period of rapid growth is at the age of 13 until they reach 20. Many of the teenagers also tend to have a tall and lanky appearance. This is because the skeletal system outpaces the muscular system and the bones elongate while the muscles stay the same (Hatfield, 2007).

Girls also go through a significant change during this stage. They start their menstrual cycle which signals readiness for pregnancy. Their breasts also start to develop, and they achieve adult appearance by the age of 16. Boys also achieve their adult appearance by the age of 16. Their muscle strength and coordination are well developed. Their voice also changes, which sometimes causes them embarrassment (Hatfield, 2007). Because of the sudden change in the body, there is also a change in the nutritional needs of adolescents.

Since they are growing rapidly and engage in various activities, they need to have more energy and calories to complement in their hyped lifestyle. Teenagers also become aware of sexual changes and sexual maturity. They suddenly become curious in the aspect of sex and sexuality. Society's culture has a significant impact on the perception of adolescents toward sex. Sex is perceived differently in various cultures and this greatly influences adolescents’ developed view on sex. Sexual orientation is also developed during this stage.

Adolescents begin to look for their self and establish their identity as they discover their taste and preference. There are various perspectives to describe the adolescence phase. For instance, parents see this stage as full of unsolicited outbursts and rebellious acts. Meanwhile, biological perspectives explain that the adolescence is a stage of turbulence that closely resembles the period when people evolved from savages to civilized beings. Cognitive Development in Adolescence During adolescence, people also experience vital developments in the cognitive aspect.

Cognitive maturation includes a wide scope of newly found abilities and functions of the brain, such as the significant change from concrete to abstract thinking. This capability allows adolescents to draw logical conclusions in various situations (Sadock Kaplan, & Sadock, 2007). Jean Piaget also attempts to explain the changes in the cognitive aspect of an individual when he reaches adolescence. According to Piaget, adolescents enter the formal operational stage wherein their cognitive capacity develops, providing them with abstract and scientific thinking skills.

Its difference with the concrete operational thinking in children is that children just see the plain reality. They are not concerned with the underlying problems. Adolescents tend to be more inquisitive and probing when it comes to dealing with problems. Statistical data show that about 40 to 60% of adults fail the Piaget's operational problems. This is because adults practice formal operational thinking in their field of expertise or in the field where they have extensive experience. Another reason is adolescents and adults do not always practice formal operational thinking.

They tend to rely on their intuitive judgments and conclusions. Emotional and Social Development in Adolescence During adolescence, a person is bound to experience some psychological and emotional difficulties while passing through puberty and adolescence. Some of the adolescents develop difficulty in the transition, which includes fear and anxiety and sometimes cause deep depression. It also includes confusion, identity crisis, and anxiety. These things are a common experience during adolescence, and many adolescents do not know how to adapt and conform to the sudden changes.

Nevertheless, there are some adolescents who still maintain vital and intimate relationships with others. Some of them are also easily adapt to the changes and develop a positive outlook towards their personal identity (McInerney, 2006). Erik Erikson was the first to discover that identity is one of the major premises that affect the individual's acquisition of healthy and productive adult life. The description of oneself, or identity, includes who a person is and what he or she values, his or her goals, and objectives in life. Erikson then developed a theory called identity versus identity confusion.

The theory explains that fruitful outcomes during the early stages will render positive resolutions. Erickson also explained that adolescents may also experience identity crisis—a period of confusion and distress. Adolescents tend to explore alternatives before they draw a conclusion. Erikson also added that those who go through “soul searching” most often settle for a mature identity. There are various things that influence the development of identity. An individual’s identity is molded and shaped by these factors. Parents, peers, school and community are the factors that affect identity.

Parental support and encouragement play significant roles in the formation of identity. Being welcomed to a group of peers boosts people’s self-esteem and relatedness. Their school and community define the environment where they live which affects their attitude and behavior. Emerging Adulthood This period is not an extension of one's adolescence, nor is this the period of young adulthood. During this period, individuals experience less parental control and supervision and they engage in independent exploration. Young adulthood implies that a person is in the early stage of adulthood.

Emerging adulthood is a transition after adolescence wherein one is too old to behave like a typical teenager but too young to assume an adult way of life and involve themselves sin adult issues such as marriage and rearing of children (Arnett, 2004). Emerging adulthood is a time when a lot of uncertainties and queries are supposed to be entertained in preparation for the real adult life. It is also considered as one of the most stressful times in one's life, which involve a period of constant exploration in education, jobs and partners. Emerging adults also devote their full attention on looking for alternative roles, values, and behavior.

Thus, emerging adulthood is also a stage wherein many changes occur in one’s life. These changes include cognitive development beyond Piaget's formal operational stage. Emotional and social changes also occur during this period.

Their attitudes and values widen, as they express interest in different kinds of new fields and accept ethnic and cultural diversity. Conclusion Adolescence is both an exciting and anxious stage in human life. During this stage, individuals experience abrupt changes and developments. They experience physical, cognitive, social, and emotional changes in forming and defining individuality and personal identity.

Emerging adulthood is the transition stage between adolescence and young adulthood. In this stage, individuals enjoy the carelessness in decision making. They are not truly engage in adult life. They explore different things like education, jobs, and intimate relationships. They also experience significant changes in the cognitive, social, and emotional aspects. All people go through the stages of the human life cycle. Individuals tend to be anxious and scared when they step into an unknown phase of life. Hence, people should take everything as a significant experience in their search for their real personal identity.


Arnett, J.J. (2004). Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Hatfield, N.T. (2007). Broadribb's Introductory Pediatric Nursing. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

McInerney, D.M. (2006). Developmental Psychology for Teachers: An Applied Approach. Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Sadock, B.J., Kaplan, H.I. & Sadock, V.A. (2007). Kaplan & Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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The Developments in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. (2016, Aug 04). Retrieved from

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