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Preadolescence and Early Adolescence: Introduction to the Adolescent Process and the Challenges of Sexual Maturation 

Preadolescence and Early Adolescence: Introduction to the Adolescent Process and the Challenges of Sexual Maturation
Chapter:
Preadolescence and Early Adolescence: Introduction to the Adolescent Process and the Challenges of Sexual Maturation
Source:
The Little Book of Child and Adolescent Development
Author(s):

Karen J. Gilmore

and Pamela Meersand

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199899227.003.0006

This chapter introduces the second decade of life and provides an overview of the adolescent process. It describes the first two phases, preadolescence and early adolescence, which are marked by the cascading events of puberty and include dramatic changes in physical contour, peak growth velocity, and the emergence of secondary sexual characteristics. Moreover, the key psychological tasks of individuation, adjustment to and management of the maturing body and the intensification of sexual drives, and the loosening of parent—child attachments are initiated. The advent of formal operational cognition, which facilitates abstract reasoning, is also reviewed. Preadolescence is proposed as a distinct period that brings latency to a close and that is characterized by premonitory bodily changes, an internal sense of disequilibrium and increased conflict in the parent—child relationship. The chapter discusses the special risks and vulnerabilities of the early adolescent period as the child grapples with novel sexual urges, diminished parental support, and unprecedented peer pressures.

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