During this stage of development, adolescents are facing high school graduation, placement tests, and often college or career selection activities. They are expected to make major decisions about the rest of their lives. By the end of late adolescence, most youth reach full physical, cognitive, social, and emotional maturity, and most issues of emancipation are essentially resolved.
Specialization of gross motor skills, gains in strength, and aerobic capacity are fully developed; however, some adolescents may continue to develop speed and increase in size; these changes occur at a slower rate compared with during middle adolescence, and females continue to accumulate fat mass. Their vision is fully developed.
Cognitive Motor Development
These youth engage in more complex cognitive skills. Abstract thought has been established, empathy skills are well developed, and personal values are clearer and well defined. Youth are able to process and make adult decisions, are future oriented, and perceive, set, and react on long-range options and goals. They have the cognitive ability to understand and remember strategies for most academic, sports, and life endeavors.
These youth are continuing the process of emancipation and their significant symbolic movement away from home. Some adolescents seek employment, move away from home, and become financially independent. Others go to college and only temporarily move from their parents' home and continue to be financially and emotionally dependent on their parents. Other youth may choose some combination of these two scenarios. Adolescents in the late stages of development are beginning to resolve conflicts between themselves and their parents. At this stage, youth should have developed an acceptable body image and gender role. They continue to develop their ability to function independently and are less influenced by peers; now they can think independently and use their own judgment for setting personal rules. They are more actively participating in sexual experimentation, are able to be altruistic, and can initiate, develop, and sustain intimate relationships. Their relationships with romantic partners are less narcissistic and more geared toward mutual respect and gratification. They prefer the association with groups and couples and prefer intimacy versus isolation. Most adolescents at this stage of maturation have developed a strong sense of personal identity.
A neurodevelopmental perspective of adolescence holds that it is a transitional period of growth, development, and maturation that begins at the end of childhood and ends with entry into adulthood (about between the ages of 10 and 21 years). The onset of puberty signals the start of adolescence. The end of adolescence is marked by the individual reaching full physical and developmental maturity or young adulthood. As adolescents matriculate through this phase of life, they experience significant physical, hormonal, cognitive, emotional, and social changes. These changes occur in three overlapping stages: early, middle, and late adolescence. Early adolescence marks the onset of puberty, middle adolescence is characterized by peak growth and physical maturation, and late adolescence marks the end of puberty and the integration of all functional skills. Youth who experience normal growth and development phase through these stages with minimal problems and emerge a fully functioning member of society.
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