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Adolescence: The Last Step Before Becoming An Adult

Children must pass through several stages, or take specific steps, on their road to becoming adults. For most people, there are four or five such stages of growth where they learn certain things: infancy (birth to age two), early childhood (ages 3 to 8 years), later childhood (ages 9 to 12) and adolescence (ages 13 to 18). Persons 18 and over are considered adults in our society. Of course, there are some who will try to act older than their years. But, for the most part, most everybody grows in this same pattern. Parents learn much about taking care of their babies and young children. At the hospital or with the doctor, you might pick up information about what to feed them or how long they should sleep. Later, school staff may remind you about the importance of talking and reading to your young children. You can also see how your friends or relatives treat their kids. You cannot say the same thing about learning to talk with teenagers (adolescents). It seems like everyone, even teachers and neighbors, have problems understanding them. Giving up, you might turn to doing and saying the same things your parents did with you. But those were other times!

You can begin to understand this age group if you look at its place on the growth sequence. Notice how it's right next to the adult stage, the last step before being an adult. This is a time for adolescents to decide about their future line of work and think about starting their own families in a few years. One of the first things they must do is to start making their own decisions. For example adolescents can begin to decide what to buy with their own money or who will be their friend. To do this they must put a little distance between themselves and their parents. This does not mean that you can't continue to "look after them'' or help them when needed. You should, as much as possible, let them learn from the results of their actions. Adolescents also need to be around other adults, both male and female. These can be relatives, neighbors, or teachers. Of course, they should be positive role models. Your teenagers can learn from them about things like how to fix the car, getting along with others, or ideas for future jobs. Finally, don't worry if they want to spend time alone. Adoles ­ cents can ``spend hours'' day dreaming about their future life. They might be planning the things they can do or will buy ``when they grow up.'' Remember, to travel far, one begins with the first few steps!

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Title: Adolescence: The Last Step Before Becoming An Adult
Publication Date: 1998
Publisher/Institutional Source: ERIC Clearninghouse on Rural Education
This publication is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.

Models of Adolescent Transition

by William A. Borgen and Norman E. Amundson
ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services (ERIC/CASS)
ERIC Digest. 1995


Adolescents face a range of developmental issues. Havighurst (1952) suggested that two important areas included work and relationships. Levinson (1978) focused on changing relationships and on exploration, while Erikson (1968) commented on intimacy and commitment to goals. Super (1963) indicated that exploring and crystallizing vocational choice are important to older adolescents and young adults. What seems evident is that older adolescents and young adults enter transitions with the goal of becoming independently functioning adults, as they strive to meet evolving personal and career related needs. Rapid and escalating changes in labor market and post-secondary educational opportunities mean that adolescents now are confronted with the challenge of meeting their personal and career needs when neither can offer certainty or a sense of personal control.


A longitudinal study by Amundson, Borgen, and Tench (in press) found that young people left high school unprepared for current career realities and that both the career and personal areas of their lives were in a state of change and uncertainty. At the end of their final year of high school, young people in the study expressed optimism about entering the career area of their choice and they expected to be successful workers in challenging jobs which offered personal satisfaction. About half the respondents indicated some concern about meeting post-secondary entrance standards. Approximately 9 and 18 months following graduation, depression, self-esteem, and anxiety were correlated with a range of perceived problems, including money, lack of support from family and friends, internal attribution of general transition problems, external attribution of career/employment difficulties, and lack of job satisfaction.

At the end of the study, some of the young people were interviewed. They were asked about factors that helped or hindered the post-high-school transition. Positive factors included supportive family and friends, making money, satisfying leisure activities, personal achievements, and educational success. Negative factors included relationship problems, career confusion, financial difficulties, unemployment, lack of satisfying work, lack of post-secondary educational opportunities, and difficulty in adjusting to post-secondary educational demands.

Developmentally, the young people were trying to meet personal and career-related needs, which were in a state of flux and uncertainty. It was apparent that a lack of progress in one area could have a negative influence on the other (e.g., an inability to gain post-secondary educational admission or paid work could drastically alter one's ability to move from being a dependent adolescent to an independent adult).