Primitive people did not consider puberty and adolescence to be distinct periods in the life span, the child is regarded as an adult when capable of reproduction.
As it is used today, the term adolescence has a broader meaning. It includes mental, emotional and social maturity as well as physical maturity. This period is from the beginning when children become sexually mature and ending when they reach the age of legal maturity. Early adolescence extends roughly from thirteen to sixteen or seventeen years and late adolescence covers the period from then until eighteen, the age of legal maturity. Early adolescence is referred to as the 'teens' sometimes even the 'terrible teens'.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ADOLESCENCE
1. Adolescence is an important period - because of their immediate effects on attitude and behavior. It is important for both psychological and physical effects. Along with the rapid physical development, adolescents go through rapid mental development as well. These give rise to the need for mental adjustments and necessity for establishing new attitudes, values and interests.
2. Adolescence is a transitional period - during any transitional period, the individual's status is vague and there is confusion about the roles the individual is expected to play. The adolescent, at this time, is neither a child nor an adult. If they behave like children, they are told to 'act their age'. If they try to act like adults, they are often accused of being 'too big for their age'.
3. Adolescence is a period of change - During early adolescence, when physical changes are rapid, changes in attitude and behavior are also rapid. Due to sexual maturity they have feelings of instability which are often intensified by the ambiguous treatment they receive from parents and teachers. Changes in their bodies, interests, social group expectations, create new problem. Their value system change as interest and behaviour pattern changes. They try to act independently.
4. Adolescence is a problem age - throughout childhood, their problem and needs are taken care of by parents and teachers. Suddenly during adolescence they feel they are independent and try to do everything on their own ending up in frustration.
5. Adolescence is a time of search for identity - in dress, speech and behavior adolescents want to be as nearly like their gang-mates as possible. They use status symbols in the form of clothes, vehicles, other observable material possessions.
6. Adolescence is a time of unrealism - they have a lot of unrealistic aspirations, desires and goals not only for themselves but also for their families and friends. They will get angry, and disappointed when they feel that others have let them down or that they have not lived up to the goals they set for themselves.
7. Adolescence is a threshold of adulthood - they want to create an impression that they are close to adults which they show in their dress and behavior, associated with the adult status like smoking, drinking, using drugs, engaging in sex etc.,