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Describe adolescence

  • Adolescence is historically a new concept and it may be culturally specific to some extent. In the Western world, adolescence is defined as the period of development between puberty (the time where individuals become capable of sexual reproduction) and adulthood.
  • The concept of adolescence is controversial because:
    • not everyone agrees that it is a unique life period across all cultures
    • there are enormous individual and cultural differences in the adolescent experience
    • most research on adolescence has been conducted in

the West.

  • Schlegel and Berry (1991) argue that even if there is no specific word for adolescence, almost all cultures have a notion of what it is. In some non-industrialized cultures, the beginning of adolescence is marked by initiation ceremonies or rites of passage, which are major public events.
  • Themes of initiation ceremonies may be related to adult responsibilities (e.g. productivity or fertility) in the various societies. In industrialized societies, there are no formal transition ceremonies and this leaves adolescence with no clear beginning or end.
  • Hall (1904) described adolescence as a period of “storm and stress”. While it is true that some adolescents in the West may experience some problems during adolescence, it is not the norm.