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What Is Late Adolescence Development?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Late adolescence development represents the final stage of physical and emotional growth as children pass into adulthood. Distinct changes in thinking and behavior occur in early, middle, and late adolescence development to prepare children for independence. Late adolescence development happens somewhere between 17 and 22 years of age, when teens become fully mature mentally and physically.

This is the period when young adults become more comfortable with their body images and sexuality. Youths in this stage of development typically seek one-on-one committed relationships and intimacy. They usually become more self-reliant and focus less on the opinions of peers. Late adolescence development is the time when goals for the future become defined.

Moral exploration might also begin during this stage of emotional growth. The maturing individual might start thinking about moral issues on a global level and how he or she fits into the equation. This young person might begin to weigh the moral implications of his or her decisions. Late adolescence development typically includes a period of spiritual exploration as part of the identity-seeking process.

Intellectually, this stage of development is usually ideal for higher learning. Young adults in this period can fully express ideas and consider other points of view. They typically become interested in education and setting career goals. They could gain financial independence during this period of life.

The process of becoming an adult starts when a child is between 10 and 14 years old, a period defined as early adolescence development. This is when a youngster begins to change physically, considered a time of peak growth. These physical changes commonly lead young teens to worry about body image and turn to peers for approval. A child in this period of growth might begin to think about sex and experiment with masturbation.

Middle adolescence development usually occurs between 15 and 18 years of age. Rapid physical growth slows, and thinking turns to abstract concepts. These teens might feel invincible, but begin to understand cause and effect. At the same time, they might start exploring sexual experiences and engage in risky behaviors. A child in this stage might seek independence and privacy, and show less concern about conformity with a peer group.

This is the period where moral and spiritual beliefs might gain importance. Thinking typically becomes more conceptual to prepare the teen for adulthood during late adolescence development. Social awareness and questioning authority also commonly occur during the middle stage of growth.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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