In 1904, G. Stanley Hall published his monumental work called Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. Hall’s initial work went through many edits, however the term “adolescence” became a common word It is important to recognize that prior to Hall’s use of the term adolescence, there had been increasing discussion regarding individuals who had passed puberty, however were not yet considered adults (Keniston, 1971, p. 4-5).
Hall claimed that this change in human development was due to the transformation of human society in the decades following the Civil War. The practice of children laboring along side of their parents in the fields and factories, began to disappear. A rise in industrial productivity allowed for teenagers to remain out of the labor force because the new machines replaced the positions the children held earlier. This new industrial society now pushed for youth to become educated and literate (Keniston, 1971, p. 4-5). Unlike previous scholars who started the adolescent stage at age ten Hall felt that adolescence encompassed ages 14-24 (Arnett, 2006).
Ultimately, G. Stanley Hall considered the stage of adolescence as merely a change in human experience (Keniston, 1971, p. 4-5). This stage of life is now universally accepted as an inherent part of the human condition but as you will see through further exploration of this website the term “adolescence” no longer applies and the age range that fits into this new development stage has changed once again.
Social Effects and Characteristics of Adolescence
“Adolescence is inherently a time of storm and stress” (Arnett, 2006).
During the time that G. Stanley Hall proposed the age of adolescence, which overlaps with today’s current views of the development of emerging adulthood, child labor laws were put into place that forbid children under the age of 16 from working (Henig, 2010). Education laws were also formed to keep children in secondary schools (Arnett, 2006). Some of the characteristics that defined adolescences for Hall included a higher level of attention seeking, engaging in risky behaviors, and a strong dependence on friendships (Arnett, 2006). Hall proposed that media and reading detective novels encouraged the dangerous behaviors, which included an increase in criminal activity, and risky behaviors in regards to sex and alcohol use (Arnett, 2006).
Hall also addressed the various biological changes that occurred developmentally during adolescence primarily dealing with puberty (Arnett, 2006). Physical growth and development occurred over a period of time, with girls and boys differing in rate of growth (Arnett, 2006). Puberty began around the ages of 13 and 14 (Arnett, 2006). During this time there is a rapid growth of dendrites, which are connections within the brain (Arnett, 2006). G. Stanley Hall accepted the belief of French naturalist Lamarck, of acquired characteristics. This means that traits are passed down through generations.
While G. Stanley Hall’s ideas were extremely important at the time he popularized them it had been more common in recent times to separate adolescence as the ages 13 to 18 and place the ages 18 to 25 in a new developmental stage. Even though Stanley Hall provides no explanation for why he choose the age 24 as his cut off point for adolescence there are some societal evidences including the idea that during that time period adolescence did not experience any significant transitions, for example education ended earlier, work began sooner and leaving home took place later, which points to the idea that ages 18 and older and were reasonably put in the same developmental stage. Today however there are significant transitions that occur around the age of 18 which is why in modern times adolescence is considered as the ages of 10 through 18. For example 18 is now the legal age allowing for individuals to vote.
Created by: Lisa Feeley, Amanda Halliburton and Bethany Mastrorilli
Arnett, J. J. (2006). G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence: Brilliance and nonsense. History of Psychology, 9(13), 186-197.
Henig, R. (2010, August 18). What is it about 20-somethings? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html
Keniston, K. (1971). Youth and dissent: The rise of a new opposition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.