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Late adolescence: what it is and physical and psychological characteristics

Late adolescence: what it is and physical and psychological characteristics

January 29, 2023

Adolescence is one of the most complex and difficult periods that we spend throughout our life development. It is a stage of growth in which we stop being children to be adults, we begin to acquire more and more responsibilities and be more independent and the moment in which we forge our identity.

The final stage of adolescence, the previous years of properly entering adulthood, is what some authors call late adolescence . It is about this evolutionary moment that we are going to talk about throughout this article.

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Adolescence: a time of changes

The transition between childhood and adulthood It is a stage of development characterized by the presence of a large number of changes, both physically and mentally and socially. This stage comes finalized by the late adolescence, but before this last one takes place, many phenomena occur that allow to understand it better.

In the first place, the emergence of puberty stands out as the moment that will mark the beginning of adolescence and in which Different changes due to the action of the neuroendocrine system begin to be generated (especially before the activation of hypothalamus and pituitary gland) and the stimulation of the production and action of sex hormones that derive from it in both men and women.

The body grows in size (unevenly) and bones and muscles are strengthened and developed, the primary sexual characters (basically the internal and external genitalia and the appearance of the first menstruation / pollution) and secondary (hair on face, body) develop and pubis, voice changes, breast growth). This growth occurs in an accelerated manner at the beginning, although little by little it slows down as the years go by.

At the cognitive level and as the prefrontal cortex develops, little by little the adolescent will acquire capacity for self-control and self-management, mental flexibility, ability to inhibit and select their behavior and seek and organize their own goals and motivations, plan and anticipate results.

The self-centeredness of childhood gives way to a different egocentricity, characterized by the presence of thoughts of omnipotence in the form of a personal fable and the creation of the imaginary audience (considering that others are observing and giving importance to our behavior). As the subject matures, this egocentricity will decrease in most cases.

The creation of one's identity

But undoubtedly one of the most important psychological milestones of this life stage is the acquisition of an identity that is separate from the rest of the world . The adolescent stops seeing himself solely based on what the rest of the world considers of him and builds a self-concept, beginning to value his own complexity and to desire to experiment to find himself. It is at this moment that the subject begins to seek social involvement and seek greater independence.

There is certain separation with respect to the family and tend to focus more on the group of friends, being essential elements when developing identity aspects and the sense of social belonging. Likewise, society begins to assign them ever greater responsibilities and to demand more of them.

All this means that the set of changes that adolescents must face can become highly stressful and difficult for them to assume, being a particularly sensitive stage of development.

Late adolescence: what is it?

Adolescence can be divided into several stages : early adolescence between the ages of eleven and thirteen (when puberty usually occurs), adolescence between the ages of fourteen and sixteen / seventeen and late adolescence, which we will see below.

Late adolescence is considered to be the evolutionary moment immediately prior to adulthood, after most of adolescence has elapsed. Specifically, late adolescence is identified with the second half of the second decade of life, in a period that can vary between 15 and 21 years (Some authors consider that it is given from 15 to 19, others propose between 17 and 21).

In this vital stage it is considered that most of the most important maturational changes at a physical level have already occurred (being more typical of early and middle adolescence), although this does not imply that the body does not continue developing.

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Cognitive and maturational scope

With regard to cognitive and social aspects, it is considered that in late adolescence the most abstract thinking and the ability to assess the repercussions of their actions are already established.

It is a much more stable stage than those that precede it, characterized by a much more adult thinking and centered not so much in the present and in the immediacy but oriented towards the future. Identity is largely consolidated and you already have some established values (although they may vary over time). The presence of a strong idealism and illusion is habitual, although also uncertainty and anxieties and psychological and health problems can appear.

Occasionally a small crisis may appear (the so-called crisis of the 21, although it is increasingly delayed in today's society), in which the adolescent begins to face the demands of the adult at work, couple and social participation.

In spite of everything, we must bear in mind that we are still in adolescence and still missing aspects to finish developing even at biological level (For example, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until at least 25 years of age in most people, or even beyond thirty).

Psychosocial aspects

Regarding personal relationships, greater stability and less experimentation stand out than in other moments of adolescence, and At a relational level, contact with the large group is no longer so much sought if not, there is usually more attention to relationships from person to person and in intimacy (both in romantic relationships and friendship).

They are much more independent both the family and the peer group (although both are still very important) and their values ​​and actions no longer depend so much on what others consider. With regard to the family, the separation carried out during the initial moments of adolescence is reduced and the link with the family environment of origin is reconstructed. Their involvement in the community is much greater and is usually the time when they want to "eat the world".

Bibliographic references:

  • Casas Rivero, J.J. and Ceñal González Fierro, M.J. (2005). Adolescent development. Physical, psychological and social aspects. Comprehensive Pediatrics, 9 (1): 20-24. Adolescent Medicine Unit. Pediatric Service Móstoles Hospital, Madrid.
  • Castillero Mimenza, O. (2016). Cyberbullying: harassment in the network. Analysis and intervention proposal. [On-line]. University of Barcelona. Available at: //
  • Parker, J.G. & Asher, S.R. (1993). Friendship and Friendship Quality in Middle Childhood: Links with Peer Group Acceptance and Feelings of Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction. Developmental Psychology 29, 6-11.
  • Siegel, D. (2014). Brain Storm Barcelona: Alba.
  • Youniss, J. and Smollar, J. (1985): Adolescent relations with mothers, fathers and friends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Adolescence: Crash Course Psychology #20 (January 2023).

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