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Growing pains

War Cry comments on adolescence

A person’s brain continues to develop and mature when they are in their twenties

ADOLESCENCE, that period of time when young people are developing into adults, now runs from the ages of 10 to 24, rather than just the teenage years. That’s according to scientists writing in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

They have identified that the physical changes of puberty, which used to begin about the age of 14, now start to take place in children as young as 10 years old.

Their report also notes that a person’s brain continues to develop and mature when they are in their twenties.

The lead writer of the viewpoint piece, Professor Susan Sawyer, argues that the present definition of adolescence is overly restricted and she calls for ‘an expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence’.

She says that an expanded definition is ‘essential for developmentally appropriate framing of laws, social policies, and service systems’.


The Salvation Army has a history of providing specialist support to young people, including those in their early twenties. Some of this help is provided at residential centres for young adults who have experienced problems such as family relationship breakdowns, encounters with gang culture or involvement with criminal activities.

Because the law identifies anyone aged 18 and over as an adult, the young people in these centres have often already been judged as failures because they have not performed and produced the outcomes expected by society.


The Salvation Army’s experience is that young people need to be nurtured and encouraged up to the age of 24 years and beyond. The scientists’ report – which identifies that growing up is starting younger and going on for longer – confirms this.

The adolescents of today are the emerging generation who will take our society forward, for good or bad. We need to ensure that they are properly supported to become the best people they can be.

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