When do the teenage years end?

The first kiss, the first concert with friends, heated arguments with parents - hardly any phase of life shapes our personality as strongly as puberty. Because in the teenage years we have particularly intense experiences.

Scientific supervision: Prof. Dr. Kerstin Konrad

Published: 04/19/2017

Level: medium

  • Most of all, childhood friends influence the social norms of teenagers. Parent values ​​also play an important role.
  • If adolescents can express their own views in disputes with their parents and find compromises, this strengthens their self-esteem. In intact families, disputes are often more violent, but tend to stick to the matter and do not overwhelm young people emotionally.
  • Loud, rebellious music like punk or metal can help you develop your own personality. Young people have a particularly emotional relationship with music. That is why titles from youth still appeal to old age.
  • Puberty is particularly well remembered. This has to do with the many emotional experiences in this phase of life.
Uncool teenagers have an easier time later in life

They wear strange clothes, have pimples, but no dates - in short: some teenagers are just uncool. Anyone who was one of the alleged losers in the schoolyard is most likely not in the mood for a class reunion - but should definitely go! Why? Former nerds are likely to expect late satisfaction. Because those who were not well regarded as teenagers often have fewer problems in adult life than the cool kids of the past. This was shown by the results of a study by researchers led by Joseph Kelly from the University of Virginia. The scientists collected information on a total of 184 young people from Virginia between the ages of 13 and 22. To do this, they interviewed the young people themselves as well as their parents and acquaintances of the same age. Using this information, the researchers were able to place the study participants on a coolness scale. Anyone who makes contact with the opposite sex at an early stage, has outwardly attractive friends or acts provocatively, climbs further up the coolness ladder. As the study showed, a decline often follows in young adulthood: At the age of 22, the formerly cool teenagers were classified by others as more socially incompetent than the previously boring teenagers. In addition, their relationships were more likely to fail, they were more likely to have alcohol or drug problems, or to become criminals. The researchers suspect that in the course of their lives the cool adolescents keep trying to stand out from others through extreme behavior - and that can be problematic outside the school yard.

The first guitar of his own, band rehearsals with the boys from school, tender declarations of love on the parental veranda - Bryan Adams conjures up in his hit Summer of ‘69 Images of carefree teenage days that he would like to return to right away. The youth as the best time of life - in retrospect, it probably doesn't only appear that way to languishing concert-goers. But their own daughter or son is just going through puberty - possibly including their first own drums, punk band and hated childhood sweetheart - parents are buzzing with completely different lines of songs through their heads. Passages like this from the song now appear much more fitting than Adam's positive youth anthem Boy the band The doctors: "And how you look again, holes in your pants and this noise all the time ... And you were such a sweet child. You were so cute. "

Basis for personal development: the first three years of life

Even if the sweet toddler from back then and the moody teenager of today seem to have little in common: In the first three years of life, children learn a lot that is later important for personal development: between birth and the age of three, countless connections are created in the brain . External stimuli and social interaction are particularly important for the development of the baby. In the first three years of life, the child also builds a close bond with his caregiver - the quality of this bond can also influence later relationships in life.

First kisses can increase self-esteem

So do the first few years of life also have an impact on teenage love? Quite possible! Hardly any other experience in the life of a teenager is as memorable as the first relationship. But as romantic as the memories of your own first kiss or holding hands may be, it is just as difficult for some parents when their daughter or son rush off on a scooter with their first boyfriend or girlfriend. In fact, love relationships in teenage years are not only associated with positive experiences: As the results of the “Pairfam” panel study show, the rather short relationships in adolescence seem to be associated with increased depression, low self-esteem, delinquency and poor emotional health. However, according to the results of the study, those who have long relationships in adolescence are often more satisfied with relationships as a young adult. Ultimately, parents can even be happy about one or the other admirer: Young people with their first romantic experiences have a higher self-esteem. If teenagers, on the other hand, have no experience of love at all, studies show that this is partly associated with emotional insecurities.

Friends of young people shape the values

But not only the first romantic relationships shape our further life. Friends are particularly important during puberty, even if they are the parents - as in the song of the Ädoctors - sometimes cause concern. In any case, they influence personal development: According to a research project by the Baden-Württemberg State Foundation, there is a clear connection between the social norms of friends and those of young people themselves.

But that does not mean that parents no longer have any influence on their children during puberty: young people definitely orientate themselves towards their ideas and norms. According to the Shell Youth Study, values ​​such as friendship, partnership and family that are capable of reaching a consensus are particularly important to teenagers.

Good arguments make young people more confident

The big issues are less likely to cause conflicts in the family - disputes in puberty are often about little things like abandoned clothes or going out.

And while conflict between parents and teenagers is normal, the way they argue can be critical to personal development. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research looked at the culture of conflict in different family constellations. The result: mothers in intact relationships place great value on teenagers following the rules in disputes and do not avoid conflicts. As a result, discussions are often quite heated. Single mothers, on the other hand, tend to regard young people in discussions as having equal rights, but they also switch more quickly to an emotional level that addresses the relationship between mother and child. That can overwhelm young people. Perhaps this is why the separated children often have lower self-confidence, their ability to deal with conflicts is less pronounced and they have more difficulties in building lasting relationships. If young people can exchange arguments with their parents or one of their parents, they are taken seriously and find compromises, which strengthens the development of a healthy self-esteem.

Rebellious music helps to find one's identity

The taste in music can also cause a lot of trouble during puberty: If it booms from the teenage room in a deafening manner, some parents hold their ears and wonder where the child got this taste from. But don't worry: this will change over time. As a study at Cambridge University showed, musical tastes change over the course of life. In the teenage years, music helps with identity.

Music styles such as punk or metal with loud, distorted sound form a contrast to the established and help to express the claim to autonomy towards the parents. But so-called “contemporary” music such as rap or pop is also finding favor with young people and is increasingly displacing “intense” music in young adulthood.

Who knows, maybe former metal fans can even get enthusiastic about hits when they get older - according to the study, older people tend to "unpretentious" music. It is very likely that young people today will still be enthusiastic about songs in old age that were published between the ages of seven and thirty: This is shown by a study by the FGM research group media. People between the ages of 14 and 16 develop the strongest emotional connection to music.

Why we remember puberty

This also explains why many people can sing along with the hits of their youth so fervently: Feelings and emotions are decisive for whether events - or even song lyrics - are stored in the brain in the long term or not. Because we experience many things for the first time during puberty and feel feelings such as love, sadness or fear, we remember our youth particularly well. According to the Dutch psychologist Douwe Draaaisma, especially old people over the age of seventy see images from childhood, adolescence and young adulthood popping up in their minds.

The memory is particularly clear up to the age of 25 - after that the development of the personality is largely complete. Nevertheless: Those who were still wild and impulsive as a teenager often become more agreeable, more conscientious and more resistant to challenges from the age of 30, as researchers led by psychologist Jule Specht from the Free University of Berlin found. Even in the old age over 70, personality can still change. But as exciting as the very personal one Summer of ‘69 will probably no longer be a phase of life.

for further reading:

  • Bainbridge, David: teenagers. Natural history of a strange species, Wiesbaden (2010).
  • Schwägerl, Christian: Your next ten years, ZEIT Wissen, No. 6 of October 14, 2014. http://www.zeit.de/zeit-wissen/2014/06/generation-zukunft-altersgruppen-vergleiche. (go to Article)