Adolescence is a period that begins with puberty and ends with the transition to adulthood (approximately ages 10–18). Physical changes associated with puberty are triggered by hormones. Changes happen at different rates in distinct parts of the brain and increase adolescents’ propensity for risky behavior. Cognitive changes include improvements in complex and abstract thought. Adolescents’ relationships with parents go through a period of redefinition in which adolescents become more autonomous. Peer relationships are important sources of support, but companionship during adolescence can also promote problem behaviors. Identity formation occurs as adolescents explore and commit to different roles and ideological positions. Because so much is happening in these years, psychologists have focused a great deal of attention on the period of adolescence.

Learning Objectives: Physical Development in Adolescence

  • Summarize the overall physical growth
  • Describe the changes that occur during puberty
  • Describe the changes in brain maturation
  • Describe the changes in sleep
  • Describe gender intensification
  • Identify nutritional concerns
  • Describe eating disorders
  • Explain the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of adolescent pregnancy