The Four Stages of Adolescence
To help you keep your expectations in line with the normal changes of adolescent growth, what follows is a brief description of the adolescent process, with common problems parents often encounter in each of the four stages along the way.
1. Early Adolescence
Early adolescence usually unfolds between ages nine and 13, and problems are characterized by these common changes. The adolescent:
Develops a negative attitude.
Shows increased dissatisfaction at being defined and treated as a child.
Shows less interest in traditional childhood activities and more boredom and restlessness from not knowing what to do.
Feels a new sense of grievance about unfair demands and limits that adults in life impose.
Resists authority more, with questioning, arguing, delaying compliance, and ignoring normal home and school responsibilities.
Experiments more to see what he or she can get away with, including such activities as shoplifting, vandalizing, prank calls, and the beginning of substance experimentation.
Midadolescence usually unfolds between ages 13 and 15, and problems are characterized by these common changes. The adolescent:
Fights more with parents over social freedom.
Lies more often to escape consequences from wrongdoing or to get to do what you have forbidden.
Feels more peer pressure to go along with risk taking in order to belong, including more pressure to use illegal substances to be accepted.
3. Late Adolescence
Late adolescence usually unfolds between ages 15 and 18, and problems are characterized by these common changes. The adolescent:
Gains more independence by doing grown-up activities — part-time employment, driving a car, dating, and recreational substance use at social gatherings.
Experiences more significant emotional (and often sexual) involvement in romantic relationships.
Feels grief over the gradual separation from old friends (and perhaps leaving family) and more anxiety at his or her unreadiness to undertake more worldly independence.
Maintain realistic expectations about your child's passage through adolescence, and you will reduce the likelihood of overreacting when normal problems occur and helpful disciplinary support is required.
4. Trial Independence
Trial independence usually unfolds between ages 18 and 23, and problems are characterized by these common changes. The adolescent struggling to be adult:
Has lower self-esteem from a sense of incompetence, not being able to adequately support all the demands and keep all the commitments of adult responsibility at this “grown-up”age.
Feels anxious over not having a clear sense of direction in life.
Is easily distracted by peers who are confused about direction, too, partying more to deny problems or escape responsibility, as the period of maximum exposure to drug and alcohol use begins.