Adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. In most cases, this change occurs during the teen years, but the first signs of puberty may appear in entirely normal boys and girls at any time between the ages of 9 and 17 years and may not be completed until age 20 or 21. Individual differences in the timing of adolescence are wide, and parents and children are often unnecessarily concerned and develop considerable anxiety about “early” or “late” maturity in children whose developmental progress is actually well within the normal range. Some boys, for example, may not show signs of adolescence until. age 16 or 17, but will still mature as fully as their schoolmates, though the process may continue into their early twenties. On the other hand, some girls may begin to mature as early as age 9 or 10. These girls will generally not become over-developed” as their parents sometimes fear, but will simply reach their full maturity by the mid-teens and stop there.
Away from the demands of a world they never made—but must now live in—the young seek nature’s comforts and each other’s company, to
begin to try to sort things out.
Girls will generally enter adolescence earlier than boys, so that brothers and sisters can never be compared fairly as to relative maturity at similar ages. This is further complicated by the fact that precocious (exceptionally early) maturity is much more common in girls than in boys, while delayed maturity occurs much more frequently in
boys. In either of these cases, however, the process itself is usually quite normal once begun, and results in the same ultimate level of maturity.
Parents of a late-maturing boy are often concerned about their son’s small stature during his early or mid-teens, but it is quite common for such a boy to “shoot up several inches at 17 or 18 to reach a fully normal height. Similarly, most girls brought to a doctor for “excessive height” in their early teens will not be treated for this condition, because the likelihood is that their final height at maturity will be no greater than that of their friends. In fact, many “tall” 12-year-old girls end up being of slightly less than average height as adults.