Preadolescence is a stage of human development
Human development (biology)
Human development is the process of growing to maturity. In biological terms, this entails growth from a one-celled zygote to an adult human being.- Biological development:...

 following early childhood
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence. In developmental psychology, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood , early childhood , middle childhood , and adolescence .- Age ranges of childhood :The term childhood is non-specific and can imply a...

 and prior to adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

. It may be defined as ending with the beginning of puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

 or with the beginning of the teenage stage, the time frames in which adolescence is considered to begin. In terms of age in years, preadolescence is generally defined as the period from 9-14 years. Dictionary definitions generally designate it as 10-13 years. One can also distinguish 'middle childhood and preadolescence' - middle childhood from approximately 5-8 years, as opposed to 'the time children reach preadolescence (age 9-14 years).'

'Preadolescence brings its own challenges and anxieties and unlike most of the preceding phases, crucial elements of preadolescence are starkly different for boys and girls.'


The point at which a child becomes an adolescent is defined by the onset of puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

 or by the beginning of the teenage stage. Adolescence is also viewed as ending with the teenage stage. However, in some individuals (particularly females), puberty begins in the preadolescence years, and adolescence may extend a few years beyond the teenage years in others (typically males). Studies indicate that 'the onset of puberty has been one year earlier with each generation since the 1950s.'

There is no exact agreement as to when preadolescence starts and ends, and research suggests that 'chronological by no means identical with developmental time - the duration of the "inner" stages of growth' - or with physiological time.

Psychological development

Of the 'two major socializing
Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies...

 agents in children's lives: the family environment...and formal educational institutions,' it is 'the family in its function a primary socializer of the child' that predominates in the first five years of life: middle childhood by contrast is characterized by 'a child's readiness for school...being self-assured and interested; knowing what kind of behavior is expected...being able to wait, to follow directions, and getting along with other children.'

Preadolescent children in fact have a different view of the world from younger children in many significant ways. Typically, theirs is a more realistic view of life than the intense, fantasy-oriented world of earliest childhood. Preadolescents have more mature, sensible, realistic thoughts and actions: 'the most "sensible" stage of development...the child is a much less emotional being now.' They will often have developed a sense of ' intentionality. The wish and capacity to have an impact, and to act upon that with persistence'; and will have a more developed sense of looking into the future and seeing effects of their actions (as opposed to early childhood where children often do not worry about their future). This can include more realistic job
Job (role)
A job is a regular activity performed in exchange for payment. A person usually begins a job by becoming an employee, volunteering, or starting a business. The duration of a job may range from an hour to a lifetime . If a person is trained for a certain type of job, they may have a profession...

 expectations ("I want to be an engineer when I grow up", as opposed to "I want to be a wizard"). Middle children generally show more investment 'in control over external reality through the acquisition of knowledge and competence': where they do have worries, these may be more a fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

 of kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

s, rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

s, and scary media events, as opposed to fantasy things (e.g., witches, monster
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce physical harm or mental fear by either its appearance or its actions...

s, ghosts).

Preadolescents may well view human relationship
Interpersonal relationship
An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the...

s differently (e.g. they may notice the flawed, human side of authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 figures). Alongside that, they may begin to develop a sense of self
Self (psychology)
The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive and affective representation of one's identity or the subject of experience. The earliest formulation of the self in modern psychology derived from the distinction between the self as I, the subjective knower, and the self as Me, the...

Identity (social science)
Identity is a term used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations . The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology...

, and to have increased feelings of independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

: 'may feel an individual, no longer "just one of the family."' A different view on morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 can emerge; and the middle child will also show more cooperativeness. The ability to balance one's own needs with those of others in group activities'

Greater responsibility within the family can also appear, as middle children become responsible for younger siblings and relatives, as with babysitting
Babysitting is the practice of temporarily caring for a child on behalf of the child's parents. Babysitting is commonly performed as an odd job by teenagers for extra money.-General:...

; while preadolescents may start caring about what they look like and what they are wearing.

Middle children often begin to experience infatuation
Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love: 'expresses the headlong libidinal attraction' of addictive love...

, limerence
Limerence is a term coined c. 1977 by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated...

, puppy Love
Puppy love
Puppy love is an informal term for feelings of love or infatuation felt by young people during childhood and adolescence, so-called for its resemblance to the adoring, worshipful affection that may be felt by a puppy. 'Simple infatuation is often called a "crush" or "puppy love"...

, or love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

 itself , though arguably at least with 'girls carrying out all the romantic interest....preadolescent girls' romantic pursuits often seem to be more aggressive than affectionate.'

Home from home

Where development has been optimal, preadolescents 'come to school for something to be added to their lives; they want to learn lessons...which can lead to their eventually working in a job like their parents.' When earlier developmental stages have gone astray, however, then, on the principle that 'if you miss a stage, you can always go through it later,' some middle children 'come to school for another purpose...[not] to learn but to find a home from home...a stable emotional situation in which they can exercise their own emotional liability, a group of which they can gradually become a part.'


'Children at the threshold of the nine-to-twelve-year-old group' would seem to have particular vulnerabilities to parental separation. Among such problems were the very 'eagerness of these youngsters to be co-opted into the parental battling; their willingness to take sides...and the intense, compassionate, caretaking relations which led these youngsters to attempt to rescue a distressed parent often to their own detriment'.


Preadolescents may well be more exposed to popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 than younger children and have interests based on internet trends, television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 shows and movies (no longer just cartoons), fashion
Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person...

, technology, and music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

. Preadolescents generally prefer certain brand
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers."...

s, and are a heavily targeted market of many advertisers. Their tendency to buy brand-name items may be due to a desire to fit in, although the desire is not as strong as it is with teenagers.

Studies also show that 'pre-adolescents...reported frequent encounters with sexual material in the media, valued the information received from it, and used it as a learning resource...and evaluated such content through what they perceived to be sexual morality.'


Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 called this stage the latency period to indicate that sexual feelings and interest went underground...the feelings that create that first "eternal triangle" with the parents fade, and free energy for other interests and activities.' Erik H. Erikson confirmed that 'violent drives are normally dormant...a lull before the storm of puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

, when all the earlier drives re-emerge in a new combination, to be brought under the dominance of genitality.'

Latency period children can then direct more of their energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships: middle childhood especially is marked by 'the importance of school, teams, classes, friends, gangs and organised activities...and the adults who run those.' Nevertheless recent research suggests that 'most children do not cease sexual development, interest and behavior' at this time: rather, they 'cease to share their interest with adults and are less frequently observed.' Because 'they've learned the rules...[they] fit in with the grown-up's belief that they're not interested. But the curiosity about it all continues, and there's quite a lot of experimenting going on between them.' alongside other pursuits

But while the eight year old still has 'years to wait until puberty, adolescence and finally sexual maturity...a sort of lull before puberty arrives,' with preadolescence proper (9-12), and the move forward from middle childhood, what have been called 'the introspective and social concerns of the prepubescent' tend to come more to the fore. Clearly 'few experiences are more prominent in the lives of preadolescents than the onset of puberty'; so that 'at eleven or twelve you're just reaching the end of a long period during which change was steady and incremental': Freud's latency years.

Gender relations

'A greater complexity in gender relation in preadolescence' clearly develops. Whereas 'three-year-olds say about half their friends are of the opposite age seven almost no boys or girls say they have a best friend of the opposite sex. These separate universes intersect little until teenagers start dating.'

Preteen and tween

A preteen or a preteenager is a person under the age of 12. Generally, the term is restricted to those close to reaching age 12, especially age 11. Tween
Tween (demographic)
A tween is a North American neologism that describes a person who is between the ages of 9 and 12 years old . The term is often described in popular media as referring to a pre-adolescent who is at the "in-between" stage in their development when they are considered "too old for toys, too young...

is an American neologism and marketing
Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments...

 term for preteen, which is a blend
In linguistics, a blend is a word formed from parts of two or more other words. These parts are sometimes, but not always, morphemes.-Linguistics:...

 of between and teen.

The term was previously used in J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

's 1954 novel The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in...

to refer to Hobbits in their twenties: "...tweens as Hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and the coming of age at thirty-three." In this context, the word is really either a shortened version of between or a portmanteau of teen and twenty, and in either case has no connection to "teens," preteens or the American marketing niche.

In the 1938 film "Love Finds Andy Hardy
Love Finds Andy Hardy
Love Finds Andy Hardy is a 1938 romantic comedy film which tells the story of a teenage boy who becomes entangled with three different girls all at the same time. It stars Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Fay Holden, Cecilia Parker, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, Mary Howard and Gene...

", Judy Garland sings a song lamenting being an "inbetween", a term considering being too young to be a teen that can date but too old to be a child. The movie was part of the Andy Hardy series starring Mickey Rooney in the title role.

Further reading

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