Module 2: perspectives on working with young people: facilitator's guide

3.2 The youth development model

Page last updated: 2004

The youth development model focuses on the individual young person without considering the impact of other factors on their life. It is also important to understand the developmental stages that adolescents experience as they reach adulthood. We need to acknowledge that peers, families, communities and societies influence how young people travel through these stages.

Stages of adolescence

In general, adolescence can be divided into three substages:
  • Early adolescence - 10-13 years
  • Traditional or mid-adolescence - 14-18 years
  • Late adolescence/youth - 19-23 years
Younger adolescents (aged 11-14) are developmentally very different to older adolescents (15-19). Cavaiola and Kane-Cavaiola discuss this difference as follows:
  • Early adolescence (aged 10-13) - This is a time of emotional and frantic activity which seems relentless. The group rules and usually the most pathological member of the group is looked up to as a leader. Anyone who is 'different' because of physical or mental disability, ethnicity or culture or physical appearance becomes the subject of ridicule. It is not unusual for young people to be quite cruel at this age.

  • Middle adolescence (aged 14-18) - This stage is characterised by more settled, introspective and self-conscious behaviour. At this age young people are still peer-orientated but the most pathological young person ceases to intimidate the group. Cruelty becomes less frequent as group members are now able to tell one another to 'knock it off'. Steady relationships and dating take on utmost importance. Some bickering and arguing with parents and siblings usually occurs during this time.

  • Late adolescence (aged 19-23) - This is characterised by 'settling down' as the young person becomes more focused on tasks. At this point, decisions regarding careers, relationships and issues of separation from parents are in the forefront. There is a realisation that life does not hold limitless possibilities.
Some of the critical developmental changes that young people experience during this time include:
  • physical changes
  • cognitive changes and
  • social changes (including peer interactions, exploring sexuality and risk taking).
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Adolescent stages

  • Early adolescence (aged 10-13)
  • Middle adolescence (aged 14-18)
  • Late adolescence (aged 19-23)

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Adolescent changes

  • Physical changes - puberty and sexual development
  • Cognitive change - development
  • Social changes - development