Teen Age describes a period of child-growth that extends from the thirteenth to the nineteenth year. It corresponds generally to the period of development known as adolescence, which may begin before the age of 13 and extend well beyond the age of 19.
Adolescence actually begins with puberty, a period during which the child matures physically. Adolescence ends at some indefinite point called maturity, or adulthood. Adults have certain special characteristics that adolescents usually lack. These include emotional and economic independence; acceptance of responsibility; a sense of self-identity or individuality; and a goal, or set of values, that adults try to reach. But the chief factor of adulthood is physical maturity, which is generally completed between the ages of 20 and 23.
The teen ager undergoes other great changes that tend to confuse him/her. Physical changes sometimes upset him emotionally. Intellectually, he/she begins to question social, moral, and religious ideas that he had previously received without question from his parents and society.
The teen ager also strives for the independence, freedom, and responsibility of an adult. This often leads to conflicts between the teen ager and his/her parents, and to conflicts within the teen ager him/herself. Too often adults ignore, ridicule, or misunderstand the teen ager's drive toward adulthood.
The teen ager may be divided into three separate categories ranging from the radical to conservative. The "radical" teen ager may be best described as one going to all extremes to try and prove something that nobody else can really understand. Punks, stoners, new- wavers, skaters, surfers, and other similar people fall into this category. The "moderate" group of the teen ager may best be described as the classic teen ager, or really a teen ager who epitomizes most of the qualities of a "normal" teen ager. This category comprises the widest range of people and could definitely be sub-divided within itself. This particular category of teen ager is slightly vague as it can range from teenagers such as "jocks" to "brains". The last of these categories, the "conservative" teen ager describes the class of teen agers who follow the rules and teachings of the adult world without a complaint or rejection. One will most likely find a "conservative" teen in the front of the classroom trying to get as close to the teacher's desk as possible. One will find that this person is usually quite timid and quiet the majority of the time.
Parents are the greatest single influence in the life of an adolescent. Whether the teen ager successfully makes the transition form childhood to adulthood depends mostly on them. Parents must constantly strive to understand their growing youngsters. Parents themselves must make certain adjustments so that the teen ager can fulfill his/her need for independence and social development. They must provide a secure and happy home where the teen ager can find acceptance of himself and his friends.
Teen agers must be prepared to meet many more problems than those already discussed. They must develop moral and ethical standards, and learn how to apply them. They must learn how to study and how to succeed scholastically, especially if they plan on going to college. They must also learn how to use leisure time constrictively they must develop wholesome attitudes toward other persons. Adolescence is the proving ground for these future responsibilities, and thus becomes one of the most important periods in a person's life. The adolescent needs the help of parents, school, and community.