In the transition to adolescence, young people experience the intense and uneven physical and emotional changes associated with puberty. They make the shift from elementary school to high school. They increase their autonomy and begin to set a more independent life course.

Young adolescents are in search of self-identity. The peer group becomes increasingly important to that search and adolescents feel an intense need to belong. Peer pressure and gender differences increase. Adolescents experience a strong desire to experiment with new behaviours in their attempt to understand who they are.

As children approach and enter adolescence, school and community influences begin to compete with the home environment as key factors in their lives. Broader community influences, such as the mass media, become increasingly important influences on their attitudes and behaviours. Each setting — where young people live, learn, work, play and worship — provides opportunities for youth to strengthen both their identities and their social, emotional and intellectual competencies.

While this section focuses on the transition to adolescence, many of the conditions that affect this transition come into play in the earlier school years. Thus, this section includes some information about initiatives and conditions in the earlier years that are known to positively or negatively affect the transition to adolescence.

Young people who make a healthy transition to adolescence exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They have a positive, secure and integrated identity.
  • They exhibit social competency and strong interpersonal skills, including cordial relationships with family members.
  • They have a commitment to learning and to participating in school.
  • They make healthy, appropriate behaviour choices.
  • They can adapt to change and are learning to cope with adversity.

To achieve these outcomes, children and adolescents need to learn the required knowledge and skills. More importantly, they need supportive environments at home, in school and in the community that provide clearly defined boundaries, and the support of people who love them.

Positive outcomes for this transition

Strong social skills

A commitment to learning and participating in school

The ability to make healthy choices


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