Everything You Need to Know about Late Adolescence

Young people consolidate their identity and begin to look to the future during late adolescence. Find out how to help your children navigate this stage in this article.
Everything You Need to Know about Late Adolescence
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 24 September, 2022

Late adolescence is a complex and decisive stage in the life of every human being. Thus, the reality of a 13-year-old child is far from that of a child under 18. As you can imagine, it’s important to be aware of the different stages of development as it’s a turning point between childhood and adulthood.

It’s no secret that children going through this convulsive and exciting phase affect their parents. Furthermore, the latter may think their job is done once the challenges of puberty are over.

However, the last years of adolescence are just as important as the first. Therefore, the work of parents continues to be just as important as it was at the beginning.

Be there for your children during this transition. Continue reading to find out how.

What’s late adolescence?

Adolescence is a broad period that spans from puberty to the onset of adulthood so there’s no single definition for it.

The maturity level of young people adjusts as they grow older. The challenges and changes they experience are also different depending on their age.

The stages of adolescence will help better understand what happens during these years:

  • Early adolescence is the first stage and ranges from 10 to 13 years of age. Physical and hormonal changes derived from puberty are the main characteristics.
  • Middle adolescence is the period between 14 and 16 years of age. Identification with the peer group and the search for independence are constants.
  • Late adolescence takes place from 17 years of age onwards. One could consider it a return to peace and reestablishment of balance.

Late adolescence is the prelude to adulthood. That is the moment when the results of all that’s happened during the previous years settle down. Even so, the young person continues to mature and transform on several levels.

A group of teenagers enjoying their late adolescence.
Adolescence is marked by the group of belonging and sharing with peers.

Characteristics of late adolescence

You’ll surely like to know what to expect if you have a child who’s in this stage or is about to go through it. Go on reading to find out how the body, mind, and emotions of young people evolve during late adolescence.

Establishing personal identity

The search for one’s own identity is one of the main goals of adolescence and young people tend to seek peer group acceptance. It’s common for them to take on the values, attitudes, and even the physical image of their peers.

However, the young person no longer manifests this dependence as much upon reaching late adolescence. They’ve now developed their own moral framework, their own opinions and priorities, and their own style.

Cognitive maturity

As adolescence progresses, the young person’s capacity for abstraction, logic, and executive functions improve. Thus, they’re more capable of controlling their impulses, making decisions, and planning taking into consideration the consequences of their actions from the age of 17.

Egocentrism and the need for immediacy dilute and give way to more mature reasoning and the ability to postpone gratification. Even so, the cognitive development isn’t over yet as certain brain regions (such as the prefrontal cortex) continue to mature until the age of 25.

Find out more Parental Frustration with Teens Won’t Talk

Acceptance of body image

The most drastic changes on a physical level occur during puberty and early adolescence. Therefore, young people generally accept their new image by the time they reach this final stage. The complexes may still be there but youngsters feel more comfortable in their bodies and identify with their more adult appearance.

Search for emotional intimacy

People tend to immerse themselves in large peer groups during the early teenage years but quality begins to take precedence over quantity at the late stage. Thus, it’s common for them to seek greater emotional closeness with their friends and to try to develop greater intimacy.

Consequently, they may relate to a smaller group of people but do so on a deeper level. At the same time, there’s a greater degree of independence from others than in earlier times.

Family reconnection

Late adolescence is the period in which parents see the return of those children who emotionally distanced themselves before. They’re the same ones who opposed them to find themselves and defied authority to explore their own rules.

Distancing indeed occurs to different degrees in every family. However, there’s a tendency for young people to once again consider their parent’s opinions and advice towards the end of adolescence. It’s time to come closer together and re-integrate into the family nucleus as active participants.

Two women hugging.
This stage signifies the return to the family with a less defiant and more conciliatory attitude.

Late adolescence isn’t adulthood

While many of the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors of adolescents soften or stabilize during this later stage, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not yet dealing with fully mature and developed adults. There’s still a lot of confusion, uncertainty, impulsivity, and lack of realism.

Moreover, there’s a generalized tendency in Western societies to lengthen adolescence, and some authors even claim it extends up to the age of 25. This is because labor and socioeconomic conditions often keep young people from becoming independent.

The important thing is to develop autonomy and acquire the cognitive and emotional resources necessary A child going through late adolescence needs parental guidance with the understanding that they’re still in transition.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Martínez, B. (2013). El mundo social del adolescente: amistades y pareja. Los problemas en la adolescencia: respuestas y sugerencias para padres y educadores, 71-96.
  • Sánchez, F. L. (2015). Adolescencia. Necesidades y problemas. Implicaciones para la intervención. CURSO SEMA DELA, 9. https://adolescenciasema.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Adolescere_2015_2_v4.pdf#page=9
  • Sawyer, S. M., Azzopardi, P. S., Wickremarathne, D., & Patton, G. C. (2018). The age of adolescence. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health2(3), 223-228.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.