BYU Radio

Defining Adolescence

Let’s talk about adolescence. This term means different things to different people.  But most would agree that it begins with the onset of the biological changes associated with puberty and ends when a person has fully established himself or herself as an adult, occurring between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Beyond these structural definitions, other groups like psychologists look at adolescence in more complex ways. For example, influential psychologist Erick Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development describes adolescence as a series of increasingly complex psychosocial crises, during which individuals struggle to achieve individuality and learn to function in society. Erickson believes that, for adolescents, the need to form a sense of identity is one of the key developmental challenges for this period of life. To build this sense of identity, adolescents must acquire a sense of mastery, autonomy, sexuality, intimacy, and achievement. Each of these developmental tasks moves an individual towards the formation of his or her identity. What does this all have to do with literacy? The reality is that during adolescence, youth move through the developmental changes required of them by extracting information from a variety of sources, including parents, teachers, peers, and often books. And that’s where literacy makes an impact. Books have a unique ability to allow readers to vicariously experience and learn from situations that they may or may not experience in real life. For adolescents in particular, reading is one of the literacy tasks they engage in to gain the necessary understanding to formulate their sense of identity as they work to discover their own place in society. Additionally, since all the developmental processes of adolescence focus on becoming an adult, young adult literature has a unique ability to connect with teens. This is why the central theme of most YA fiction relates becoming an adult and finding the answer to the question “Who am I and what am I going to do about it?” Adolescents, who face many complex developmental tasks as they form their identities, often read because they are growing up and they need guidance to help realize themselves. Because of this, we find here at “Worlds Awaiting” that this is the reason that a reader’s choice of reading material is often connected with emotional and developmental needs.

By Rachel Wadham, Host, WORLDS AWAITING



At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.