Characteristics of Adolescence

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What are Secondary Sexual Characters?

Secondary sex characteristics are those characteristics which are dimorphic and are not directly involved in reproduction  For males, some examples of these characteristics are facial and chest hair, increased body hair, upper body muscular build, ability to generate muscle mass at a faster rate than the female etc. For females, secondary characteristics include menstrual cycle, lack of body hair and thicker hair on head etc. As males and females mature and reach adolescence secondary characteristics are developed and they are well observed. The time period varies from person to person and boy to girl.


Adolescence could be described as the transitional time period between puberty and adulthood in human development, extending mainly over the teenage years and completed legally when a certain age is reached. Generally, adolescence begins at the age of 12 and ends at the age of 18.

There are three Stages of Adolescence:

  1. Early Adolescence (10-13 years of Age)

  • The child starts to grow more quickly. Body changes and hair growth under armpits and in the pubic area are noticed. In males, enlargement of testicles is observed and females breast development is observed.

  • Development of concrete black and white thinking whether something is wrong or right.

  • They develop an increased sense of privacy.

  1. Middle Adolescence (14-17 years of Age)

  • Males start their growth spurt and puberty related changes continue. The menstrual cycle in females starts around this period.

  • Voice cracking in boys is also observed.

  •  The brain continues to mature in this stage but there are still differences in the way how a normal middle adolescent thinks compared to an adult. This is because the frontal lobes of the brain are the last areas to develop.

  1. Later Adolescence (18-21 years of Age) 

  • They show complete physical development and grow to their full adult height.

  • They can assess risks and rewards more accurately.

  • Growing males and females can identify their values.


Puberty can be explained as the range of physical changes through which a child’s body develops into an adult body that is capable of sexual reproduction. The start of puberty is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads which are the testes in boys and ovaries in girls. In response, the gonads produce hormones that stimulate physical and mental development.

Characteristics of Puberty

The characteristics of puberty are directly related to the development of secondary sexual characteristics in both males and females. These metal and physical changes during puberty males and females are briefly explained below two sections. 

Secondary Sexual Characteristics in Males

The physical changes in boys during puberty takes place due to increased secretion of testosterone. Some of the characters are:

  • Growth of body hair, such as facial hair, underarm hair, pubic hair etc.

  • Enlargement of the larynx or Adam's apple and deepening of voice or voice cracking

  • Increased stature; on average adult males are taller than adult females

  • Heavier skull and bone structure due to increased bone density.

  • Development of muscle mass and an increase in strength.

  • Broadening of chest and shoulder; shoulders wider than hips

  • Increased secretions of oil and sweat glands

Secondary Sexual Characteristics in Females

Secondary sexual characters in females are seen due to the secretion of higher levels of oestrogen. These are:

  • Development of mammary glands and enlargement of breasts and erection of nipples.

  • Increase the growth of body hair, prominently observed in underarm and pubic areas.

  • Widening of hips; it should be mentioned that females have a lower waist to hip ratio than adult males.

  • Elbows that hyperextend between 5-8° which is more than male adults.

  • The upper arms of females are approximately 2 cm longer, on average, for a given height.

  • Labia minora, the inner lips of the vulva, may grow more prominent and undergo colour changes with the increase in stimulation related to higher levels of estrogenic secretion.

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What is the Difference between Puberty and Adolescence?

Puberty is the process of physical changes by which adolescents reach sexual maturity, meaning that they become capable of reproduction. 

Puberty refers to the bodily changes, while adolescence refers to a period of both psychological and social transition between childhood and adulthood. 

In non-specialised discussion and writing, the meanings can be a bit confusing, and puberty can be referred to as the time during which the physical changes take place, getting a meaning closer to adolescence. 

Adolescence still comprises a typically longer time period whilst puberty is over when the young male or female’s body has fully transformed, while it takes some more time for him or her to be recognised as an adult. The criteria for the latter is somewhat arbitrary with the typical example being “having reached the age of majority or being emancipated” (the age of majority depending on the country of residence).

Some people even talk of 20-something adolescents to refer to people who have not yet reached an autonomous state of living, while being of full legal age.

The Difference Between Adolescence and Puberty



It is a biological process.

Adolescence can be referred to the period usually ranging between teenage years though not always

It can begin and end independently of adolescence.

Will always overlap puberty whilst remaining distinct.

It can be described in concrete physiological terms

It can be explained mostly in abstract psychological and sociological terms.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Write 5 characteristics of Adolescence.

Ans. The 5 characteristics of adolescence are:

  1. Experiencing puberty with rapid growth and fluctuating hyperactivity and lethargy.

  2. Exhibition of increased communication skills.

  3. Development of critical thinking and also the ability to think abstractly.

  4. Vulnerable to emotional pleas.

  5. Increased capacity for empathy.

Q2. When does Adolescence end?

Ans. As per recent studies, adolescence starts from the age of 10 and lasts until 24. This is due to delaying marriage and parenthood which leads to semi-dependency. Semi-dependency is a characteristic of adolescence.

Q3. What are the signs of Puberty?

Ans. In girls, the first sign of puberty is usually breast development and growth of hair under armpits and the pubic area.

In boys, the signs are enlargement of testicles and genitals, followed by muscle growth, and hair growth in the pubic area and under the armpits.