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The word "adolescence" means "growing up", from the Latin adolescere, and describes a distinct stage between childhood and adulthood, the "teenage" years. In most Western societies, the idea of adolescence was not recognized until in the 20th century - childhood ended and adulthood began at a certain age, tipically at 18.

Stanley Hall  in his book "Adolescence" (1904) was the first academic to explore the subject, and he believed that we each develop in accordance with our "ancestral record". One key influence on Hall was the 18th century "Storm and Stress" movement of German writers and musicians, which promoted total freedom of expression. He considered adolescence a stage of emotional turmoil and rebelion, with behaviour ranging from quiet moodiness to wild risk-taking. "Adolescence craves strong feelings and new sensations... monotony, routine, and detail are intolerable". Awareness of seff and the environment greatly increases; everything is more keenly felt, and sensation is sought for its own sake.

Many of Hall's findings are echoed in research today. He believed that adolescents are highly susceptible to depression, and described a "curve of despondency" that starts at the age of 11, peaks at 15, then falls steadily until the age of 23. The causes of depression are: suspicion of being disliked and having seemingly insuperable character faults, and "the fancy of hopeless love". The self-consciousness of adolecence leads to self-criticism and censoriousness of self and others. This view mirrors later studies, which argue that teenagers' advanced reasoning skills allow them to "read between the lines", while also magnifying their sensitivity to situations. Criminal activity is more prevalent in the teenage years, peaking around 18.

Hall was not totally negative about adolescence. In "Youth: Its Education, Regiment, and Hygiene" he wrote: "Adolescence is a new birth, for the higher and more completely human traits are now born". So, for Hall, adolescence was in fact a necessary beginning of something more better. During  this wild, lawless time, teenagers are increasingly sensitive, reckless, self-conscious, and prone to depression. The child then emerges as an adult: a more civilezed "higher-order" being (Catherine Collin, Psychology).

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