Quick Course

Adolescence is not “One Size Fits All”

All health-care providers who treat adolescents should be familiar with the three developmental stages of adolescence and know how to tailor treatment for each phase. Keep in mind that an adolescent’s physical, intellectual, and social maturity may not be synchronized at all stages.

Stages of Adolescence

  • Early adolescence:

    • Growth spurt
    • Sexual maturation begins
    • Concrete thinking but inconsistent grasp of consequences
    • Early abstract thought
    early adolescent boy and girl
  • Middle adolescence:

    • Physical changes of puberty stabilize
    • Sense of identity grows
    • Ability to think reflectively improves
    • Emphasis on peer relationships and risk-taking
    middle adolescent boy and girl
  • Late adolescence:

    • Adult physical appearance
    • Set sense of identity
    • Relationships mature
    • Transition to leaving family
    late adolescent boy and girl

Making the transition

In general, parents and physicians are the primary medical decision makers for youth during early adolescence. Youth should become increasingly involved in decisions during middle and late adolescence so they are prepared to transition to adult-centered health care.