Awesome Parents Blogs

Three stages of adolescence

Commentators agree that adolescence can be broken down into key stages. Narramore and Lewis, in ‘Parenting Teens’, establish four bands of youth in which distinctive patterns of behaviour can be seen. They label these pre, early, middle and late adolescence. Pre-adolescence, extends from 10 to 12, early adolescence from 13 to 14.

Recognising that cultural change is bringing the actual start-point of adolescence earlier, we have ignored this preparatory stage, and assumed a stage from 11-14, widely acknowledged to be the modern day entry point into ‘teenage years’. Our research indicates an overall lowering of the cultural thresholds of adolescence, so that in practice the issues faced by 16 year olds in, say 1965, will be faced by 11 and 12 year olds today. It is important for parents to recognise this and to be ready for the teenage years to start earlier than was their own experience.

We have identified three stages, equivalent approximately to 11-14, 15-17 and 18-21. Research indicates that these stages are distinguished by the different emphasis on dependency.

Phase 1 Dependent but looking outward:
Discovery and Experiment, from the relative safety of belonging.
Phase 2 Inter-dependent:
Changing feelings and attitudes: Contact with the real world, contradictions of wanting both the freedom of independence and the security of belonging.
Phase 3 Independence:
Consolidation, personal choice, growing responsibilities of independent adult life.

baby Three stages of adolescenceNarramore and Lewis draw a parallel between these adolescent stages and three key stages in the development of an infant, as the totally dependent baby develops the separate identity of a child:
‘The Practising Years’ (10-16 months), when the infant wants to try everything, to experiment, to learn by trial and error.
‘The re-approaching years’ (16-24 months), when the infant makes forays into independence, playing for longer periods alone, etc. but needs a strong, dependent relationship to come back into at will.
‘The Consolidation Years’ (24-36 months), when the infant tries out its new identity as a separate person and learns increasingly to stand on its own two feet.
Dr Bruce Narramore and Dr Vern C Lewis, Parenting Teens, Tyndale 1990

As well as helping to understand adolescence, this parallel also points to an important factor: that often those who have had a difficult time through these stages of infancy will experience similar difficulties in adolescence. Those who enter adolescence with insecurities gained in infancy will often be shaken by those same insecurities as teens.

NB: It is important that these stages are not understood legalistically or rigidly. Different individuals, in different circumstances, will pass through these changes at different speeds, and sometimes unevenly. Boys and girls will tend to change and grow at an uneven pace, and individuals may be at stage 3 in one area of their lives but still hovering between 1 and 2 in another area.

One Response to “Three stages of adolescence”

  1. [...] Three Stages of Adolescence [...]

Leave a Reply

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Tags