What Is the Psychology of Adolescence?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden
Peer pressure can influence people to make bad decisions.
Peer pressure can influence people to make bad decisions.

The psychology of adolescence is a subsection of general psychology that is comprised of the psychological health and development of adolescents. Adolescence is, psychologically, a very important period of time, as it is during adolescence that an individual transitions from childhood to adulthood. It is a period of time marked by many physical, social, and psychological changes that can be very challenging for adolescents and their caregivers to handle. Sexual awareness and the development of complex personal identity also normally occur during adolescence. Progressing though this tumultuous adolescent phase in a healthy manner is essential for entering into a healthy and stable adulthood, so one of the main goals of the field of psychology of adolescence is to discover how best to help adolescents through this phase.

Adolescence is a time of challenging changes.
Adolescence is a time of challenging changes.

The social changes of adolescence are among the most noticeable and important aspects of the psychology of adolescence. Adolescents start to make more friends, particularly in school or sports, and want to spend more time with their peers. As they develop personal identities, adolescents begin to want more and more independence from their families. They are also likely to try to build well-liked social identities, which may make them more susceptible to harmful peer pressure. Adolescents tend to develop a close group of friends during this stage of life, and they may face pressure from that group to engage in activities that they would not otherwise consider.

Adolescents often try to fit in with their peers.
Adolescents often try to fit in with their peers.

Sexual development is another major aspect of the psychology of adolescence. Human reproductive systems mature physically during adolescence, and sex hormones are released in substantially increased quantities. Adolescents begin to find themselves, for the first time, sexually attracted to others. This can be disorienting and potentially overwhelming because of the emotional power of such feelings and because of the discomfort that many adolescents feel about discussing such issues with others.

Adolescents may shape their behavior to model patterns they see from their parents.
Adolescents may shape their behavior to model patterns they see from their parents.

Many researchers in the field of psychology of adolescence focus on the onset of various psychological disorders that are common in adolescence. Disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety, for instance, often start during late adolescence or early adulthood. Some of these disorders arise from traumatic events earlier in childhood, from family problems, or from other environmental or developmental problems, while others are genetic or cannot be linked to a clear cause. Environmental and social factors are very important in the psychology of adolescence because adolescence is a time of such rapid change, so major problems or traumatic events during this time can have lifelong consequences.

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    • Peer pressure can influence people to make bad decisions.
      Peer pressure can influence people to make bad decisions.
    • Adolescence is a time of challenging changes.
      Adolescence is a time of challenging changes.
    • Adolescents often try to fit in with their peers.
      Adolescents often try to fit in with their peers.
    • Adolescents may shape their behavior to model patterns they see from their parents.
      Adolescents may shape their behavior to model patterns they see from their parents.