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Young people in adolescence

As adolescence ( Latin adolescere "to grow up") is the period from late childhood through puberty to full adulthood . Adolescence thus differs qualitatively from childhood as well as from adulthood (Wischmann, 2010. p. 32). The term stands for the period of time during which a person becomes biologically fertile and at the end of which they are almost fully grown physically and largely matured emotionally and socially.

Adolescence, along with other stages of development, is an object of study and research in developmental psychology . The term adolescence is not part of everyday language in German, but, in contrast to Anglo-American language usage, is mainly used as a scientific term (Wischmann, 2010, p. 32).

The emergence of the concept of adolescence

Adolescence is a product of modernity that has to be viewed historically from the history of the 20th century, as the indeterminacy of individual life courses became visible here. The social origin takes a back seat and the upcoming phase of life is shaped by decisions such as the “choice” of the educational path. These decisions go hand in hand with the serious changes that are taking place, such as the separation and reorientation processes in relation to the parents' generation as well as to the peer group (Wischmann, 2010. p. 33 f.).


In adolescence, people go through important physical and psychological development processes. It reaches sexual maturity at the beginning in the partial phase of puberty and beyond this phase there is a fundamental reorganization of the brain in the course of significant brain development. In the psychological development, an emotional independence from the parents should be developed and an acceptance of one's own appearance should be achieved ( phenotype , appearance , autonomy ).

Differentiation from puberty

The term puberty is mainly used in biology and describes physical change and maturation processes. However, puberty begins, especially in girls, at an age when it is not yet possible to speak of youth. The terms adolescence and puberty sometimes describe the same stage of life, but on the one hand both the scientific discipline and the stage of life referred to here are different, since puberty begins before the life span of adolescence and adolescence begins later (Wischmann, 2010, p . 33 f.).

Period of time

The age associated with the adolescence phase is perceived differently in different cultures. In the USA, adolescence is settled at the onset of puberty: starting between the ages of 13 and 19 (from which the term teenager is derived because of the word endings of the English numerals “thirteen” to “nineteen” ). In Central Europe, the adolescence phase - depending on the stage of development - usually means the period between 16 and 24 years. In contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines adolescence as the period of life between 10 and 20 years. In German criminal law, adolescents are those who are fourteen but not yet eighteen at the time of the act, adolescents who are eighteen but not yet twenty-one years old at the time of the act (Section 1 (2 ) of the Youth Courts Act ).

Sociological consideration

Granville Stanley Hall explains in his work Adolescence that adolescence arose primarily from the consideration of medical and later psychological science. From this point of view, adolescence is viewed as an independent and particularly vulnerable phase of emotional, moral and intellectual development, which can only be successfully passed through with the guidance of adults. This concept of a phase of life between childhood and adulthood serves as the basis for a new institutional and spatial order that shaped the life of young people in the 20th century.

Adolescence is more of a moratorium than a status passage, the quality of which is decisive both for the individual and for social structures. The focus here is on social and individual change and transformation processes. The individual has to individualize himself within the space. The subject must therefore detach itself from being a child, produce something of its own and realign itself to the parenting position. You are no longer so strongly involved in family relationships, but you do not yet take on the role of an adult, namely the full performance of social tasks. Rights and opportunities are opened up, such as participation in the consumer goods market, and at the same time obligations and constraints are imposed. The individualization of the subject helps to move on a new level in relation to the parent generation and to the ability to act (Wischmann, 2010. p. 37 f.).

The expansion of adolescence can be traced back to the increasingly complex and heterogeneous demands of modern society, as more time is required for orientation. As a result, the adolescent's economic dependency remains longer. The question here is what significance this can have for recognition experiences at different levels - one has to develop one's own independence within the dependency on the parents. At the same time, this construct is necessary in order not to remain in a child-like bond with the parents, to try and test oneself (ibid. P. 37 f.)

Adolescence Theory - G. Stanley Hall

The first theoretical investment concept goes back to the psychologist and educator Granville Stanley Hall. This concept also represents the first scientific contribution to the explanation of the youth phase of life.

In 1901, Hall developed central aspects of his adolescence theory as part of a summer vacation course at Clark University. On the one hand, he concentrated on the topics of growth, physical maturation, sexual maturity and menstruation, as well as the effect of growth processes on young people. The second central aspect is the upbringing of girls and boys and the psychology of love, etc. Hall structured his theoretical explanations and pedagogical convictions using a specific development model. At the same time he renounces the determination of the development of the human species; as well as that of the individual children and young people. Hall's "biogenetic recapitulation theory" is based on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and Ernst Haeckel's basic biogenetic law derived from it. In contrast to Darwin and Haeckel, Hall applied the figure of thought of recapitulation systematically to psychological development. He assumed that the psychological development of the child and adolescent should be compared with an earlier stage in human development. According to Hall, adolescence came like a second birth and is supposed to lead to human perfection. Like Rousseau, Hall combined his scientific interest with social criticism. Both dealt with ethics and religion and with the question of the tasks of science towards these. However, in contrast to Rousseau, Hall was able to focus on psychological maturation. He advocated the idea of ​​applying the theory of evolution to the psychological field in order to meet the scientific demands of the modern world. According to Hall, the development processes are controlled by a kind of "biological clock". They are determined by the following characteristics: They are universal and unavoidable, sociocultural variables have no influence on development processes and their direction is determined. In addition, Hall differentiates between four different stages of development. He divides children up to 4 years of age into early childhood. In this stage, the sensorimotor ability for self-preservation develops. Between the ages of 4 and 8, activities such as hide and seek, catch games or cave construction follow. Hall calls this stage childhood. Historically, it corresponds to the time of the hunters and gatherers. The youth, between the ages of 8 and 12, correspond to the beginning of civilization, as structures that are exemplified are adopted. The last stage is called adolescence, this takes place between 11/13 years and 22/25 years. During this time adolescence continues into adulthood. The development process is completed at this stage.

Hall was convinced that a precise distinction can and must be made between the developmental phenomena in childhood and adolescence. In addition, the recapitulation phase can provide new insights into the psychological development of humans and educational errors can be avoided. Because, according to Hall, different stages of psychological development should guide educational action. Hall was equally concerned with the distinction between the biological, psychological, physiological aspects of sexuality in adolescence. He differentiates between female and male youth development. The scientist wanted to prove that sexuality is an essential part of "normal" youth development. Hall integrated sexuality as a developmental phenomenon in the youth phase. Because this is influential for the entire social and psychological development of the young person. Hall asked for a suitable environment to be created to encourage good development. He justifies this with the development model based on recapitulation theory. The child's environment should always be adapted to the respective stage in human history. Hall problematized the danger of dealing too early with phenomena that were not age appropriate. Politically, Hall was of the opinion that at no time had the threat been as great as in the present day of the United States. One conclusion of his interpretations is that the US adopted its political values ​​and culture from the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, with Hall basing itself on the assumption that crises are universal criteria for development. Historically, the country did not have a childhood or youth. According to Hall, this poses a threat to American youth; in particular the danger that the nation will skip stages of development.

From today's perspective, Hall's youth theory is largely out of date. The reason for this is the constant application of the recapitulation thesis to psychological, physical, moral, social and historical development. However, it has a great historical value and serves to understand the youth theoretical considerations in the first half of the 20th century.

See also


  • Karin Flaake , Vera King (Ed.): Female adolescence. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 1992, ISBN 3-593-34613-3 (new edition, 1 edition, Beltz, Weinheim 2003, ISBN 3-407-22140-1 ).
  • Karin Flaake, Vera King (Ed.): Male adolescence. Socialization and educational processes between childhood and adulthood. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2005, ISBN 3-593-37842-6 .
  • Werner Bohleber: Adolescence and Identity . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-608-91783-7 .
  • August Flammer, Francoise D. Alsaker: Developmental Psychology of Adolescence . Huber, Bern 2001, ISBN 3-456-83572-8 .
  • Dieter Baacke : The 13-18 year olds . Beltz, Weinheim 2003, ISBN 3-407-22106-1 .
  • Manfred Günther : Childhood - Youth - Old Age. The paperback dictionary . 2nd expanded edition 2020 with over 1250 words; Foreword by HG Butzko , 37 illustrations: Stuttmann ; Rheine 2020, ISBN 978-3-946537-62-5
  • Annette Streeck-Fischer: Adolescence - Attachment - Destructiveness . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-91082-4 .
  • Helmut Fend : Developmental Psychology of Adolescence . VS Verlag , Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-8100-3904-7 .
  • Judith Förner: Musical girls (dreams). The importance of female adolescence for the development of musical and artistic productivity (= women, society, criticism. Volume 33). Centaurus-Verlagsgesellschaft, Herbolzheim 2000, ISBN 3-8255-0250-3 .
  • Peter Blos: On adolescence: A psychoanalytic interpretation. The Free Press, New York 1962 (German: Adolescence. A psychoanalytic interpretation. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 978-3-12-901000-6 ; 8th edition, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3 -608-94333-7 ).
  • Joe Austin, Michael Nevin Willard (Eds.): Generation of Youth: Youth Cultures and History in Twentieth-Century America. New York University Press, New York 1998, ISBN 978-0-8147-0645-9 .
  • Anke Wischmann: Adolescence Education Recognition. Adolescent educational processes in the context of social disadvantage. VS-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-17701-4 ; also diploma thesis / dissertation, university thesis, Hamburg 2010.
  • Sabine Andresen: Introduction to youth research (= basic knowledge of educational science ). WBG - Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-17516-6 (e-book: 1st edition, 2011, ISBN 978-3-534-71033-1 ).
  • Vera King : The Emergence of the New in Adolescence. Individuation, Generativity and Gender in Modernized Societies. 2nd edition, Springer, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-658-01349-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: adolescence  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Adolescence  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Remschmidt: Adolescence - mental health and mental illness. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. (Dtsch Arztebl Int) 2013, Volume 110, No. 25, pp. 423-4, doi : 10.3238 / arztebl.2013.0423 , article in German .
  2. a b Kerstin Konrad, Christine Firk, Peter J. Uhlhaas: Brain development in adolescence: Neuroscientific findings to understand this development phase . In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. (Dtsch Arztebl Int) 2013, Volume 110, No. 25, pp. 425–31, doi : 10.3238 / arztebl.2013.0425 ; Article in German .
  3. [werner.stangl] s worksheets: Significant developments in adolescence . On : ; last accessed on March 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Granville Stanley Hall : Adolescence (= American education - its men, ideas, and institutions. ). Reprint of Adolescence: its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion and education. Appleton, New York 1905; Arno Press, New York 1969.
  5. ^ J. Austin, MN Willard: Generation of Youth: Youth Cultures and History in Twentieth-Century America. New York 1998, ISBN 0-8147-0645-2 , pp. 2-3 → Introduction.