August 12th was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and is an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth. This years’ theme is “Transforming Education,” and according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres “Today, we celebrate the young people, youth-led organizations, governments and others who are working to transform education and uplift young people everywhere.”
Presently, our world houses an unprecedented 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 (UNFPA, 2014). However, the impact of the psychological, biological and social forces that shape young people lives today on their journey to adulthood are often overlooked. It is important to understand the developmental stages that adolescents experience as they reach adulthood. We also 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 sub stages:
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 (2018) 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 perceived as ‘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 characterized by more settled, introspective and self-conscious behavior. 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 more verbally assertive. Steady relationships and dating is important. 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 realization 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).
Young people learn and grow within a social context. They are influenced by their families, peers, communities and societies. Youth development in its broadest sense refers to the stages that all children go through to acquire the attitudes, competencies, values, and social skills they need to become successful adults. According to Erikson’s Stages of Development as children move through these stages, they acquire a set of personal assets, or supports that help them face the challenges and opportunities ahead. These assets allow youth to become resilient – able to bounce back from adversity. Their ability to develop successfully depends to a great extent on the support and assistance they receive. Research has shown that young people are best able to move through their developmental stages when they are supported across all sectors of the community.
One effective youth development strategy is mentoring and is frequently referred to as a strategy that uses positive youth-adult relationships to provide broad guidance and support. As a youth mentor, you can encourage youth to identify and utilize their strengths and abilities and to provide opportunities for them to develop their personal assets as they to aspire toward the goal of making the transition to healthy adulthood. There is widespread agreement on five key outcomes for youth that are vital for their transition to adulthood. These are known as the “Five Cs”:
1. Competence: Positive view of one’s actions in specific areas, including social, academic, cognitive, and vocational.
2. Confidence: The internal sense of overall positive self-worth and self-efficacy; positive identity; and belief in the future.
3. Connection: Positive bonds with people and institutions—peers, family, school, and community – in which both parties contribute to the relationship.
4. Character: Respect for societal and cultural rules, possession of standards for correct behaviors, a sense of right and wrong (morality), spirituality, integrity.
5. Caring or Compassion: A sense of sympathy and empathy for others.
As a youth mentor, you can provide the necessary supports via ongoing positive relationships with young people. Mentors are able to ‘catch’ youth when they trip up and offer encouragement for them to try again. Mentors have the challenging role of stepping up when needed and stepping back as often as possible to allow youth to explore on their own. This support allows youth to fully take advantage of their opportunities—doing one without the other is ineffective. In Trinidad and Tobago, there are an estimated 450,556 young people who need to be nurtured – inspire and uplift a youth today.
Cavaiola, A., & Colford, J. (2018). Crisis intervention (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Lerner, R.M., C.B. Fisher, and R.A. Weinberg. (2000). Toward a science for and of the people:
Promoting civil society through the application of developmental science. Child Development, 71(1), 11–20.
Understanding the Youth Development Model. (2007). Retrieved from
UNFPA. (2014). The Power Of 1.8 Billion Adolescents, Youth And The Transformation Of The
Future. New York, Ny: UNFPA.
Trinidad & Tobago | Factsheets | Youthpolicy.org. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.youthpolicy.org/factsheets/country/trinidad-tobago/