What is Adolescence? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel is a Nurse Practitioner with experience working as a high school teacher, skin surgery center, and as a family NP.

Adolescence can be a challenging time for anyone. In this lesson learn about the physical, intellectual, emotional and social changes that occur in this time of growth.


In this lesson we'll be journeying through adolescence with some friends named Addie and Aaron. You might be thinking this will be a short trip, but you'd be wrong. Adolescence lasts anywhere from 6-10 years, depending on the person. Generally, adolescence is referred to in three stages:

  1. Early adolescence - ages 11-14
  2. Middle adolescence- ages 15-17
  3. Late adolescence - ages 18-21

These ages are just a guide, as adolescence progresses very differently for each person. During adolescence, many things change: physical traits, mind-sets and emotions all evolve.

This is different from puberty, which represents the physical changes brought about by hormones that make a person capable of making babies. Puberty usually marks the beginning of adolescence, and most teenagers finish puberty by mid-adolescence.

So let's introduce you! Addie and her best friend Aaron are in early adolescence. They both are in yearbook club and on the track team. During yearbook, Addie likes chatting with Aaron but dreads seeing embarrassing pictures of herself. When running track, Addie's started to wear a sports bra and Aaron's begun to use deodorant.

Physical Changes

So what are the physical changes that make a person capable of making a baby? For Addie, this means a menstrual period. For Aaron, this means ejaculation of sperm, which often happens at night. But other physical developments can happen before and after these events.

Addie might experience these:

  • breast development
  • vaginal secretions
  • height increase
  • hip widening
  • coarse hair growth in the armpits, legs and pubic area

Aaron might experience these:

  • voice deepening
  • testicles, penis and scrotum enlargement
  • height increase
  • shoulder widening
  • coarse hair growth on the face, armpits, chest, legs and pubic area

During puberty, boys start to get a mustache.
Teenage boy

Intellectual Changes

At the onset of adolescence, Addie and Aaron are still thinking in terms of 'black and white~,' or 'right and wrong'. They fail to see the long-term consequences of their actions right now!

Later in adolescence, Addie and Aaron start to appreciate the difficult nature of problems, seeing more shades of 'gray' rather than only black and white. They are able to think how present-day actions can impact the future, and make decisions to protect their future interests.

Emotional Changes

During adolescence, emotions are extreme. Addie and Aaron desire to make themselves totally independent. They lean more on each other and other friends for advice. They challenge boundaries and steer away from public displays of affection from parents. However, at the same time, both Addie and Aaron need constant encouragement from everyone around them, parents included!

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