Adolescence: definition, age, what changes in the body

Adolescence: definition, age, what changes in the body

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Difficult age, teenager in crisis… The collective imagination maintains a representation of adolescence which hides very different situations from one individual to another. However, adolescence remains for everyone an age of profound physiological and psychological changes.

Definition: What is adolescence?

According to the Le Robert dictionary, adolescence is the age after puberty and before adulthood. “Adolescence begins with puberty but differs from it because it presents itself as a psychosocial phenomenon, specific to the human species, while puberty is a biological phenomenon, common to men and animals. Puberty appears constantly, throughout history, as a period of natural transformation of the human organism. From this phenomenon, simple in itself, societies and times have conceptualized another period of very variable duration, ‘adolescence’, during which all biological manifestations, ambiguities and psychological and social concerns mingle“, defines the psychologist Diana Dadoorian.

At what age does adolescence begin and end?

According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), “Adolescence is the period of life between childhood and adulthood, i.e. between 10 and 19 years old.

What are the characteristics of adolescence?

“Adolescents experience rapid physical growth and cognitive and psychological development”, further specifies the WHO. From the point of view of personality, adolescence is characterized by profound psychic changes. “The hallmarks of adolescence are bodily and psychological changes. On this last point, we observe the opposition phase, assertiveness phase and independence phase. Classic changes, which it is necessary to accompany but which should not be dramatized“, warns Faïza Bossy, general practitioner.

What changes in the body during adolescence?

Puberty marks the beginning of adolescence. During this transitional period, the body passes from the state of a child to that of an adult. The main changes, under the influence of hormones, are:
► The appearance of secondary sex characteristics (development of breasts, hair growth, muscular system)
► The rapid evolution of primary sex characteristics (change in the appearance of the vulva in girls, development of the penis and testicles in boys)
► The arrival of first period at the girl
► The moult voice and the first cumshots in boys
► One rapid growth and one body development

What are the symptoms of teenage crisis?

“Of the mood swings, lack of self-confidence, a emotionality are common in adolescents. These attitudes can be linked to hormonal and physical changes, which affect character. Furthermore, adolescents are often torn between the desire for greater autonomy and the fear of no longer being protected by their parents. Also, he tends to spend more time alone, challenge adult authoritysometimes aggressively and engaging in risky behaviors“, details the Social Security. “Adolescence is indeed a period of life where unprecedented upheavals are played out in the subject’s history.“, summarizes the psychologist François Marty. However, if the fragility of adolescence is very real, the teenage crisis, it is not an obligatory passage.

severe adolescent crisis remains a fairly rare phenomenon

It is very clear that from the moment when the bodily modifications are very significant, when the psychic changes imply a need for autonomy and a need to affirm one’s identity, all of this will of course induce a change in behavior. But every teenager will adapt in their own way. Thus, the severe adolescent crisis remains a fairly rare phenomenon.“, explains Faïza Bossy. She adds: “a teenager who wants more independence, sometimes opposes his parents, this seems quite classic in the process of development and self-affirmation. On the contrary, he is important not to be alone to get through this transitional phase and the rapid and profound changes that accompany it”.

What to do in case of problems in adolescence?

Parents: attachment figures, the family structure have a supporting role in order to reassure the teenager who is going through profound and numerous changes. However, if a deep malaise sets in, if the adolescent puts himself in danger and his physical and/or mental health is at stake, he must also be accompanied by a health professional.

Thanks to Dr. Faïza Bossy, general practitioner in Paris.

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