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Youngsters in Moscow 2013

Among youth is defined as the stage of life between childhood and adulthood . Because of its length, the youth phase is often divided into sections. The first phase up to the age of 18 is called adolescence , whereby youth law comes into play in legal disputes . The English term teenager refers in the same sense to the range of English counting words that end in - teen : thirteen , fourteen , etc., i.e. the range from 13 to 19 years of age. The period after the age of 18 is often referred to as post-adolescence .

To the subject

Concept emergence

Historically, the term youth is relatively young and was only used more frequently around 1800. The concept of adolescents was originally ambivalent ( adolescence is drunkenness without wine ) and also served to distance oneself from a group of people who were defined as endangered. In the youth welfare service of the 1880s, for example, the term was used to describe a male person from the working class between the ages of 13 and 18 who was assumed to have tendencies towards neglect , crime and a susceptibility to socialist ideas . Only after 1900, in the course of the youth movement , was the rather negative connotation of the term (youth as a threat and immaturity) replaced by a positive image. In the context of nationalist currents , a political youth myth arose after the First World War : youth as the engine of history ( whoever has youth has the future ). Hitler was then the young leader in National Socialist propaganda .

The first negative image of young people in industrial society continued to have a latent effect and can be updated again, especially in times of social upheaval, as the discussion about youth violence and juvenile delinquency in the 1990s showed: young people as a danger and a threat.

Definitions of "youth"

Youth can be viewed in different ways. On the one hand, the term describes a phase in the life of an individual and, on the other hand, it encompasses an independent group of people. Depending on the point of view, certain age values ​​or a definition based on qualitative characteristics can be made to narrow down the phase of life . According to this second possibility, physical sexual maturity is usually chosen as the beginning of the youth phase, and the achievement of financial and emotional autonomy as the end . In order to pass through this “status passage”, a number of development tasks have to be mastered, which Hurrelmann and Quenzel describe as “educate and qualify”, “replace and re-bind”, “consume and regenerate” and “value orientation and participation”.

There are different definitions according to age:

  • Legal Definitions:
    • According to German law, a young person is anyone who is 14 (except in the Youth Labor Protection Act , there from 15), but not yet 18 years old ( Section 1 (2) JGG ). In the context of the Eighth Book of the Social Security Code (SGB VIII), a young person in Germany is “who is 14 but not yet 18 years old” ( Section 7 (1) No. 2 SGB VIII). A young person is one of the young people defined in SGB VIII , which also includes the younger group of children (with the exception of “those who are not yet 14 years old”) and the older group of young adults (“who are 18, but not yet Is 27 years old ”). According to the Youth Courts Act, an adolescent is any person who is 18 years of age but not yet 21 years of age.
    • The Austrian Youth Protection Law is land thing , and the concept of youth is anchored quite different. While the federal states of Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg address persons up to the age of 14 as children and from the age of 14 to 18 as adolescents , the law of Upper Austria only recognizes the term adolescents for persons up to the age of 18 Years of age, Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland use the expression young people for this - the term child does not exist in these four federal states. Notwithstanding these views, as well as by federal law, which at minors principle maturity and immaturity looks at the closing perfected 14 years, the Youth Protection Act Salzburg puts teenagers to adults over the age of 12  until the age of 18, and before speaking of child . In addition, with the exception of Salzburg and Tyrol, civil servants and military servants , and in Vorarlberg also married persons , each under the age of 18, are legally considered adults .
  • Political Definitions:
    • The UN General Assembly defines people older than 14 years and younger than 25 years as young people. In this category, however, a distinction should be made between teenagers (13 to 19) and young adults (20–24), as the problems on the sociological, psychological and health level differ greatly. This definition was made for the International Year of Youth, which was held in 1985. The United Nations also refers to people between the ages of ten and 24 as 'young people'.
    • Regardless of this, in the UN Convention on the rights of children, the word 'child' also applies to young people up to the age of 18, "as long as the age of majority does not occur earlier according to the law applicable to the child." ( Art. 1 )
  • Scientific Definitions:
    • In the “ Shell Youth Studies” (most recently “Youth 2019”), the participating scientists base their studies on the group of people ( cohorts ) of 12 to 25 year olds. Most other scientific studies also see the beginning of adolescence with the onset of puberty and the end with the assumption of an autonomous professional and social responsibility role (see the analysis by Hurrelmann and Quenzel).
German age definitions up to 30th birthday
term 0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10 11 12 13 14th 15th 16 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23 24 25th 26th 27 28 29
infant Yes No
small child part Yes part part No
childhood No early middle late No
child Yes part part No
student No Yes part No
teenager No Yes No
Teenager No Yes part No
Youth ( UN ) No part Yes part part No
Youth ( shell ) No Yes No
Age of consent Yes part part No
Minor Yes No
Child benefit Yes part part once No
young person part Yes part part No
teenager No Yes No
young adult No Yes No
of legal age No Yes
criminal responsibility No formerly part Yes Yes
legally competent No part part part part Yes
FSK / USK 0 6th 12 16 18th

Proportion of young people

All UN statistics on young people are based on the above definition (15–25). According to current estimates, 18% (or 1 billion) of the world's population in 1995 were young people, 85% of whom live in developing countries . The UN has named August 12th as “Youth Day”.

Youth as a phase of life

Adolescence includes puberty , the end of school , the start of vocational training , cutting the cord from the parents' home and finding one's identity . That is why youth is not seen as easy by both the young person who goes through it and the parents. So it is also the subject of poetry from folk and student songs to its own youth literature .


Youth and childhood are historically grown terms that have to be seen in connection with the respective form of society. In the 17th century, for example, in many classes and comparable groups beyond infancy, there was neither a pronounced childhood in our sense nor a youth. However, in the nobility and then in the bourgeoisie the pattern of the young man or the virgin had developed, in the spiritual class of the novice .

Migratory birds making music on the way. Undated photograph

Youth as a separate phase of life is then a product of modernization : it was only in the last third of the 19th century that youth became an independent group with specific common characteristics as a social issue and soon also became a field of action in politics. In premodern, agrarian societies with little division of labor , the necessary skills and competencies were imparted by the parents' generation. Due to increasing industrialization and mechanization, however, this was no longer sufficient. Rather, the skills and abilities should be acquired in school and vocational training. But this meant a longer time off for the next generation from working life. The young people used this increase in free time to develop their own youth culture . Initially, young people with a middle-class background set the tone here, who found a distinction from adult life on trips and hikes through nature, as popularized by the Wandervogel, founded in 1896 . Young workers too soon followed these forms. This ostensibly tourist behavior of the young people was charged with social and cultural criticism . After the First World War , a diverse scene of young people who took part in self-organized trips and were organized in so-called federations, the Bündische Jugend , developed in Germany . Since the 1920s, the National Socialists , who acted as a markedly young movement, and in particular the Hitler Youth , found opportunities to connect, adopting and monopolizing the symbolic language and community forms of the Bundestag youth.

“Youth” as a code for dynamism, innovation and the will to overcome encrusted or alienated forms of culture were used early on by the older generation, for example in the culture magazine Jugend , founded in 1896 , which gave its name to Art Nouveau. Youth and youth became a value in their own right - in stark contrast to the decades before the First World War, when young professionals in their twenties, as Stefan Zweig describes, tried in their habitus and in clothing and hairstyle to appear as adult, sedate and experienced as possible. The resulting youth myth was already criticized in the 1930s by Ortega y Gasset ("A spirit of general buffoons blows through Europe"). Because of this prominent importance of the youth, the 20th century has been called the "century of youth".

From the 1960s onwards, youth developed into a relatively independent phase of life as a result of the expansion of education, changed parents' educational goals, increasing cultural autonomy of young people and the work of a youth-specific consumer and entertainment industry (see also the 1968 movement ). Since the 1970s, increasingly older generations tried to imitate youthful fashions and lifestyles ( spontaneity ). The youthfulness of the skin and a young appearance are hoped to be achieved through cosmetics and other lifestyle products.

See also

Portal: Children and Adolescents  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of children and adolescents



  • August Aichhorn : Neglected youth: Psychoanalysis in welfare education. 10 lectures for the first introduction. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, Vienna 1925; 11th edition: Huber, Bern 2005, ISBN 3-456-84260-0 .
  • Vera King (2013) : The Emergence of the New in Adolescence. Individuation, Generativity and Gender in Modernized Societies (1st edition 2002)
  • Ursula Boos-Nünning, Yasemin Karakasoglu: Living many worlds: on the life situation of girls and young women with a migration background, Waxmann, Münster [u. a.] 2005.
  • Erik H. Erikson : Youth and Crisis. 4th edition, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-608-91925-2
  • Manfred Günther : Almost everything that young people are entitled to ; Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-924041-23-7 . Everything young people are entitled to ; Berlin 2019, ISBN 3-924041-23-7 .
  • Benno Hafeneger: Youth Pictures. Between hope, control and education Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-8100-1493-1 .
  • Klaus Hurrelmann, Gudrun Quenzel: Life phase of youth Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2013, ISBN 978-3-7799-2606-1 .
  • Kurt Möller: Generation Sex? Youth between romance, red light and hardcore porn. Tilsner, 2001, ISBN 3-936068-08-9 .
  • Jürgen Raithel: Risk behavior of young people, forms, explanations and prevention. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2004, ISBN 3-8100-2849-5 ; Adolescent risk behavior: an introduction , VS, Verl. Für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-531-14366-2 .
  • Jürgen Raithel: Stylization of the gender of young people. Juventa 2005.
  • Karin Flaake , Vera King (1992): Female Adolescence. Campus, Frankfurt / M. (5th edition, Beltz 2013)
  • Jürgen Reulecke : Bourgeois social reformers and young workers in the Empire. In: Archives for Social History. XXII. Tape. Bonn 1982, pp. 299-329.
  • Leopold Rosenmayr : Youth Movement and Youth Research. In: Walter Rüegg (Ed.): Cultural criticism and youth cult. Frankfurt am Main 1974, pp. 61-85.
  • Lutz Roth: The invention of the youth. Weinheim 1983.
  • Shell Germany (Hrsg.): Jugend 2015. 17. Shell youth study Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt. ISBN 978-3-596-03401-7 .
  • Frank Trommler: Mission without a goal. About the cult of youth in modern Germany. In: Thomas Koebner , Rolf-Peter Janz, Frank Trommler: The new times are moving with us. The myth of youth. Frankfurt am Main 1985, pp. 14-49.
  • Raoul Vaneigem : Handbook of the art of living for the young generations. Association, Hamburg 1977, ISBN 3-88032-054-3 .
  • Paul Willis : Learning to labor. How working class kids get working class jobs. Saxon House 1977 (German: Having fun with resistance: counterculture in the working school. Syndicate, Frankfurt am Main 1979).



Web links

Commons : Youth  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Youth  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. To whom do the youth protection laws apply? In: Home (Young People) >> Rights and Democracy >> Young People's Rights >> Protection of Young People in the Federal States. , Federal Ministry for Health, Family and Youth , July 14, 2008, accessed on December 16, 2008 .
  2. ^ The United Nations Program on Youth. (PDF) Retrieved November 3, 2017 .
  3. In the state of Bavaria , vocational school is compulsory up to the age of 21; see BayEUG , Art. 39 .
  4. Child benefit is currently granted for disabled children in Germany without any age limit.
  5. Winfried Speitkamp: Youth in the modern age. Germany from the 16th to the 20th century . Vandenhoeck and Rupprecht, Göttingen 1998, p. 118
  6. Stefan Zweig: The world of yesterday . Munich 1997, p. 40f
  7. Uwe Sander: 100 years of youth in Germany . In: From Politics and Contemporary History B 19-20 / 2000, accessed on April 26, 2011