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Preadolescence (or prepuberal stage, prenubile or prepubertal ) is a stage of human development through childhood that occurs in a child's years before adolescence.[1]


The point at which a child becomes an adolescent is usually defined by the onset of puberty. However, in some individuals (particularly females), puberty begins in the preadolescence years,[2] and adolescence may extend a few years beyond the teenage years in others (typically males).[3]

In terms of age in years, preadolescence is generally designated as the years from 10 to 13,[4] although there is no exact agreement. Two of the sources suggest ages 10-12 for girls and 11-13 for boys.

Child development stages

Approximate outline of development periods in child development. Preadolescence and preteen marked at center left.

Psychological development

Main article: Developmental psychology

Preadolescent children have a different view of the world from younger children in significant ways:

  • May have a fear of kidnappings, rapes, and scary media events, as opposed to fantasy things (e.g., witches, monsters, ghosts).
  • 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).
  • Have more realistic job expectations ("I want to be an engineer when I grow up", as opposed to "I want to be a wizard").
  • Often have more chores, such as helping around the house. The chores are also a bit more challenging then previously.
  • View human relationships differently (i.e. they may notice the flawed, human side of authority figures) .
  • Begin to develop a sense of self-identity.
  • Have increased feelings of independence.
  • Have a different view on morality.
  • More mature, sensible, realistic thoughts and actions
  • Are responsible for younger siblings and relatives, such as babysitting.
  • Often beginning to experience limerence, Puppy Love, or love.
  • May start caring about what they look like and what they are wearing.
  • May become more exposed to popular culture than childhood and may have interests that are more based on internet trends, television shows, movies, fashion, technology, and music, but are very shallow and corporate compared to the means of more rebellious and open teenagers. Preadolescents generally prefer certain brands, 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. Many of these brands include clothing and music. Examples of popular pop culture phonomena for preadolescenes at the current generation includes Disney Channel stars Hannah Montana and High School Musical. [citation needed]

Freud on preadolescence

Sigmund Freud termed this the latency period, which he saw as a period of unparalleled repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses. During the latency period, children direct this repressed libidal energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships. He saw the latency period as a time of relative calm when there is little psychosexual conflict and unconscious conflicts and drives go underground and are therefore relatively inaccessible and unavailable. But soon puberty arrives, and the genitals once again become a central focus of libidal energy.

Preteen and tween

A preteen or a preteenager[1] is a person under the age of thirteen.[5] Generally the term is restricted to those close to reaching age 13,[1] especially ages 10–12.[6]

Tween is an American neologism and marketing term[7] for preteen. A blend of between and teen,[5][6] "tween" in this context is generally considered to cover the age range from eight to twelve years.[6]

The term was previously used in J.R.R. Tolkien's 1954 novel The Lord of the Rings to refer to Hobbits in their twenties: "...tweens as Hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and the coming of age at thirty-three."[8] In this context, the word is a portmanteau of twenty and teen, and has no connection to preteens or the American marketing niche.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 New Oxford American Dictionary. 2nd Edition. 2005. Oxford University Press.
  2. Onset of Breast and Pubic Hair Development in 1231 Preadolescent Lithuanian Schoolgirls. URL accessed on 2007-12-06.
  3. Questions about Sex, Puberty, and Periods, for adolescents and their parents: 12. Puberty: Growing Up Early. URL accessed on 2007-12-06.
  4. --> Definition of preadolescence (Based on the Random House Dictionary, 2009) Retrieved on July 5, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh Edition. 2003. Merriam-Webster.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Fourth Edition. 2000. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  7. Levasseur, Maïthé (2007-02-09). Familiar with tweens? You should be.... The Tourism Intelligence Network. Retrieved on 2007-12-04.
  8. Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring Copyright 1965 by J.R.R Tolkien; Ballantine Books, A Division of Random House Inc. SBN 345-24032-4-150

Myers, James. "Tweens and cool" [1], Admap, March 2004.

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Stages of human development
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