What is Early Adolescence?

At the beginning of adolescence, the body, mind, and emotions of young people are transformed. Keep reading to learn more about early adolescence.
What is Early Adolescence?

Last update: 20 September, 2021

Adolescence is one of the times that parents fear the most. Based on the prejudices and generalizations that surround this stage, many parents have discouraging expectations for their children. However, during this transition between childhood and adulthood, there are several different stages.  And it’s important to know them well in order to accompany young people in the best possible way. Today, we want to tell you about the first one: Early adolescence.

We all know that adolescence involves great changes and that a 12-year-old is very different from an 18-year-old. However, we may not know how to clearly define what kind of transformations take place at any given moment.

If you have a child who’s about to enter puberty, then this information will help you know what to expect for the years to come. Don’t miss out!

What is early adolescence?

Early adolescence is the period between 10 and 13 years of age. However, it’s important to note that these ages are approximate, as each young person follows their maturation process at their own pace.

Therefore, in some cases, this stage can begin at the age of eight. What’s more, the changes in girls are usually about two years ahead of those of boys.

Parents with their adolescent son on the couch.

Early adolescence is a period of transition between childhood and adolescence, during which noticeable changes occur at great speed, leaving little time for assimilation.

For this reason, both parents and children can be overwhelmed by events and it’s essential they prepare to experience the process in the most natural and pleasant way possible.

Major changes in early adolescence

The transformations that occur in this stage impact various aspects of the lives of young people. They’re led by hormones and affect physical, emotional, and psychological development.

Next, we’ll show you the main manifestations of early adolescence.

On a physical level

The body and physical appearance of adolescents changes greatly during these years. Growth hormones and sex hormones (androgens in the case of boys or estrogens and progesterone in the case of girls) are the main hormones responsible for this process.

One of the most noticeable changes is the pubertal growth spurt, which occurs as a result of rapid bone growth. There are also changes in body hair (mainly in the armpits and pubis), in the way children sweat, and in their skin, which becomes more oily.

In addition, secondary sexual characteristics begin to develop, which are the typical features that distinguish the male and female gender in their mature appearance.

  • As for boys, there’s an increase in the size of the testicles and penis, the voice becomes deeper, and muscle mass and strength increase.
  • In girls, on the other hand, the breasts develop, the hips widen, and, after a few years, the first menstruation appears.

On a cognitive level

Previously, experts believed that, during adolescence, the brain was already fully formed and mature. However, they’ve since discovered some regions such as the prefrontal cortex, which suffer significant development during puberty.

In other words, the early adolescent brain creates a large number of neural connections at this stage.

Since the prefrontal cortex is the area in charge of planning, reasoning, and self-control, it’s normal for some impulsiveness and lack of criteria to appear at this stage.

In addition, they haven’t yet fully developed the capacity for abstraction and continue to think in concrete and dichotomous terms (everything is black or white).

A young teen ignoring his father.

On a social and emotional level

All of the above is also associated with greater emotional lability and a tendency to experience marked changes in mood.

Each situation is experienced with great intensity and the child’s peer group constitutes the refuge and the mirror in which they begin to reflect.

Defiant and rebellious attitudes can come to light, as the minor seeks to establish their identity. However, parents continue to be the essential figures for their development.

How to accompany your children during early adolescence?

Some youth may take in these changes with excitement and anticipation, but others will encounter them with anxiety and fear. In any case, as a parent, your accompaniment will be essential as they go through this process.

For this reason, keep the following in mind:

  • Talk to your child about the changes they’re undergoing and those that are coming: This will help them to be prepared and reduce uncertainty and confusion.
  • Be willing to answer their questions, advise them, and guide them: For example, on issues such as social relationships, sexuality, or academic performance. Despite entering adolescence, your child still needs your guidance.
  • Be understanding of emotional and attitude changes: Remember that adolescence isn’t an easy time for them and that all these changes are normal.

In short, early adolescence is one of the most important periods in your child’s life. And this is due to the large number of changes that take place during this stage.

Face it calmly and patiently in order to accompany this stage in the best possible way and enjoy your child’s growth. If you have a good foundation, this stage can be very beautiful for everyone.

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  • Picó, A. M. (1991). Factores que controlan el aumento de crecimiento durante el estirón puberal (Doctoral dissertation, Universitat d’Alacant-Universidad de Alicante).
  • Triskier, F. J. (2006). Algunas especulaciones respecto a las modificaciones neurobiológicas durante la adolescencia. VERTEX, Revista Argentina de Psiquiatría, 17(70), 424.
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