Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Background Context

Adolescent Development

  • Adolescence is a time in one’s life when significant biological, cognitive, emotional, social and ethical development occurs. Mastery of a series of interdependent developmental tasks is central to the concept of adolescence as a transition from childhood to adulthood.
  • Adolescent development has also been characterized as a period during which competencies and assets are gained that will not only contribute to achieving full potential but also to building the foundation for a productive adulthood.

Developmental Tasks of Adolescence

1. Achieving increased independence

2. Adjusting to sexual maturation

3. Establishing cooperative relationships with peers

4. Preparing for meaningful vocation

5. Establishing intimate relationships

6. Developing a core set of values and beliefs

Trends in Adolescent Health Status

  • Much of the morbidity and mortality during adolescence is related to unhealthy or risky behaviours (e.g. smoking, drinking and driving, unprotected sexual intercourse, illegal drug use, violence).
  • Behaviours that begin during adolescence often continue into adulthood; thus, risky or unhealthy behaviours can result in long-term negative health outcomes.
  • Risky behaviours can have a cluster effect, i.e. adolescents who engage in one risky behaviour are more likely to engage in other risky behaviours.
  • Although alcohol use has declined, risky practices (e.g. binge drinking) have increased.
  • Overweight and obesity has nearly doubled over the past two decades.
  • Mental-health-related issues are of concern, as one third of school-aged youth report psychological distress and have experienced bullying at school.
  • Ten percent of youth report suicidal ideation.
  • Aboriginal youth are at particular risk for suicide, with a suicide rate six times higher than that of the general population.
  • Condom use has increased, but the rate for some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has increased. Teen pregnancy rates have declined, as have subsequent pregnancies.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth remain at higher risk of health issues and are challenged to develop a healthy identify in the face of prejudice, often without support.
  • Exposure to violence affects the lives of youth, and youth experience the highest rate of assaults reported to police.

Influences on Adolescent Health: A Framework

  • The conceptual framework below provides an overview of the important considerations regarding promotion of healthy adolescent development. This framework is founded on the social determinants of health as key underlying elements in adolescent development, and recognizes the underlying conditions that contribute to or impede development.
  • To view the framework click here.
Women and Children
Enhancing Healthy Adolescent Development
Background Information