Coming of age: the emerging science of adolescence

It’s widely accepted that adolescents are misunderstood. Less well known is how far we still have to go to understand adolescence itself. One problem is that it is hard to characterize: the concept of puberty does not capture the decade or more of transformative physical, neural, cognitive and socio-emotional growth that a young person goes through. Another is that science, medicine and policy have often focused on childhood and adulthood as the most important phases of human development, glossing over the years in between.

Yet a better understanding of this phase of life is crucial for ensuring the well-being of a generation projected to be the largest in human history. In this collection, a collaboration between Nature, Nature Research journals and Scientific American, we explore the science of adolescence through multiple lenses, from neuroscience to policy and clinical medicine.

Image: Eric Nyquist


  • Nature | Perspective

    The recognition of adolescence as a distinctive period for biological embedding of culture, and mass education, are features of the globalization of cultures that are driven by transformations in labour, livelihood and lifestyle.

    • Carol M. Worthman
    •  &  Kathy Trang
  • Nature | Analysis | open

    Investing in adolescents as the parents of the next generation is important for the wellbeing of current and future generations.

    • George C. Patton
    • , Craig A. Olsson
    • , Vegard Skirbekk
    • , Richard Saffery
    • , Mary E. Wlodek
    • , Peter S. Azzopardi
    • , Marcin Stonawski
    • , Bruce Rasmussen
    • , Elizabeth Spry
    • , Kate Francis
    • , Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
    • , Nicholas J. Kassebaum
    • , Ali H. Mokdad
    • , Christopher J. L. Murray
    • , Andrew M. Prentice
    • , Nicola Reavley
    • , Peter Sheehan
    • , Kim Sweeny
    • , Russell M. Viner
    •  &  Susan M. Sawyer
  • Nature Communications | Review Article | open

    This review summarizes how predictive modeling, a method that uses brain features to predict individual differences in behavior, is used to understand developmental periods. Rosenberg et al focus specifically on adolescence and examples of characteristic adolescent behaviors such as risk-taking.

    • Monica D. Rosenberg
    • , B. J. Casey
    •  &  Avram J. Holmes
  • Nature Human Behaviour | Review Article

    Male antisocial behaviour peaks in adolescence and declines later in life. Moffitt reviews recent evidence in support of the hypothesis that the age–crime curve conceals two groups of individuals with different causes.

    • Terrie E. Moffitt
  • Nature Communications | Review Article | open

    The current generation of adolescents grows up in a media-saturated world. Here, Crone and Konijn review the neural development in adolescence and show how neuroscience can provide a deeper understanding of developmental sensitivities related to adolescents’ media use.

    • Eveline A. Crone
    •  &  Elly A. Konijn