UNICEF adopts a life course, holistic and positive development approach to every child and adolescent girl and boy, and encourages investment across the two decades of the child’s life to build a continuum of support and care.
Adolescence is characterised by rapid brain development, deep physical, biological, emotional and cognitive transformations. Research shows that it represents a dynamic period of brain development, second only to early childhood in the extent and significance of the occurring changes. Key milestones are the onset of puberty, development of sexuality, newly emerging abilities, strengths and skills, increased independence, enhanced peer influence and increased risk taking and experimenting. As they move through their second decade, children begin to explore and forge their own individual and community identities on the basis of a complex interaction with their own family and cultural identity.
Adolescence is the years in which young people establish the social, cultural, educational, emotional and economic resources to maintain their wellbeing and health across the life course. Interventions made at this stage can lay or reinforce the foundations for a fulfilling and healthy adult life. In the case of adolescents who faced severe deprivations or rights violations during their early childhood, adolescence provides a second chance for them to acquire crucial knowledge, skills and competencies they need to thrive.
When adolescent girls and boys, including the most disadvantaged are supported and encouraged by caring and nurturing adults, and good policies and services attentive and responsive to their need and capacities, they are able to develop their full potential and break cycle of poverty, discrimination and violence.