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How Do People Change between Adolescence and Adulthood?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a number of ways that people change, quite significantly, between adolescence and adulthood. This includes physical changes to the body, as well as many changes in the brain that contribute to greater perspective and more realistic worldviews, as well as views of themselves and others. Each individual person may develop at a slightly different pace and to varying degrees, but there are a number of common factors that may be seen in the transition between adolescence and adulthood. Some of the most basic physical changes include increased height, improved strength, and the development of the reproductive organs.

Researchers typically break childhood and adolescence down into a number of developmental stages; some research even suggests that the brains are not fully developed until people are at least 25 years of age. This implies a much longer "adolescence" than was previously thought, though it clearly differs from the younger adolescence of the early and middle teen years. In most cases, the transition between adolescence and adulthood is defined as the period of time from the middle to late teen years, to the early to mid twenties. This is when people change the most, and will do the most maturing.

Physical changes should be expected between adolescence and adulthood. Most people will grow a bit in late adolescence, and will be finished growing by the time they are in their early twenties. The reproductive organs will develop completely, and adolescents will complete puberty, such as a changing or deepening of the voice, and the growing of facial and pubic hair. Hormone levels will also change between adolescence and adulthood, though this varies more uniquely between individual people; in general, however, the production of sex hormones will increase through late adolescence and into young adulthood.

Changes in the brain are also significant between adolescence and adulthood. Certain areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, are not fully developed in adolescents. As a result, their perception of risk is quite low, leading them to engage in riskier behavior than adults would; in addition, they often perceive themselves as more knowledgeable and more important than they actually are. As individuals transition from adolescence to adulthood, they will be able to more accurately determine the risks inherent in a situation, and adjust behavior accordingly. They will also gain additional perspective and often stop viewing themselves as the centers of their own worlds, but rather as participants in larger family units and community groups.

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Discussion Comments
By Inaventu — On Jul 30, 2014

When I turned 18, I thought I was an adult in every sense of the word. But after going through some bad relationships and horrible jobs and all the other things post-adolescents go through, I realize now I wasn't really a grown adult until I reached my mid-20s. I may have been able to drive and vote and drink alcohol and all of those other adult things, but my mind was still like a teenager's.

I think people change from adolescence to adulthood at their own pace, but after a certain age it's more of a mental process. I remember making a conscious decision to stop doing a lot of reckless things and take life more seriously at age 23.

By RocketLanch8 — On Jul 29, 2014

I am in my forties, and sometimes I'll visit a local record store run by young twenty-somethings. I wouldn't say they were acting like immature adolescents, but there was still something not quite adult about their behavior. I probably acted the same way when I was their age, but now I could see it from a distance.

The article got it right when it mentioned being the center of their own existence. Because I was an "old man", they didn't really feel like talking to me very much. I could have told them a lot about the records they were selling, but I could tell they saw me as disconnected or uncool. They didn't act that way around customers their own age.

I think people change between adolescence and adulthood when they finally realize that other people from other walks of life actually have something useful to contribute.

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