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Late adolescence

Late adolescence isn’t a tough period as the individual is by now well aware of his or her growth and knows what to do and what not to. However, there are few things to be noted in the individuals who reach the age of late adolescence.

Tasks of the age

By age 18 to 21, which is the late adolescence, conflicts between adolescents and their parents are beginning to subside. The major tasks during this period of late adolescence are choosing a career direction and developing more meaningful and lasting emotional relationships.

A few years ago, the general expectation was that older teens would be preparing to go off to college or take a job that would allow them to live independently. Adolescents who chose college then graduate school might stretch their late adolescence years well into their late twenties or early thirties.

Late adolescence
Late adolescence

More recently, many older teens have either chosen or felt compelled to continue living in their parents; homes. As society and the economy continue to change, the challenges of late adolescence will change, too.

Idealism and innovation

With increased knowledge and independence comes the desire to improve the world, find new methods that will supersede the old, make discoveries, create new art forms, displace tyrants, and right wrongs. A surprising number of scientific advances have been made and masterpieces of art created by individuals on the threshold of adulthood.

They were no smarter than the older people in their fields, and they were certainly less experienced. But they were critical of traditional ways, biased in favor of the new and untried, and willing to take risks. That was enough to do the trick. This is often how the world makes progress.

Finding their way in late adolescence

It sometimes takes youths 5 to 10 years to find their own positive identity. Meanwhile, they may be stalled at a halfway stage, characterized by passive resistance to and withdrawal from mainstream society (which they equate with their parents) or by excessively rebellious radicalism.

They may decline to take an ordinary job as their parents may have done; instead, they adopt unconventional dress, grooming, acquaintances, and residence. To them, these decisions seem like evidence of vigorous independence. But by themselves, these things don’t yet add up to a positive stand on life or a constructive contribution to the world. They are essentially a negative protest against their parents; conventions.

Even when the striving to be independent shows up only in the form of eccentricities of appearance, it should be recognized as an attempted step in the right direction, one that may later lead to a constructive, creative stage. As a matter-of-fact, the young people in their late adolescence who strain so visibly to be free are apt to come from families with unusually strong ties and high ideals.

Other youths, idealistic and altruistic in character, often take a sternly radical or purist view of things for a number of years—in politics, the arts, or other fields. Various tendencies of this age period operate together to draw them into these extreme positions: heightened criticalness, cynicism about hypocrisy, intolerance of compromise, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice in the response to their first awareness of the shocking injustices of the society they live in.

A few years later, having achieved a satisfactory degree of emotional independence from their parents and having found out how to be useful in their chosen field, the individuals in their late adolescence are more tolerant of the frailties of their fellow human beings and readier to make constructive compromises. It’s not that they become complacent conservatives. Many remain progressive, some remain radical. But most become easier to live and work with.

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