Sexual and reproductive health

Very young adolescents

Understanding transition from childhood to young adolescence

School children attending parade, South Africa
Trevor Samson / World Bank

There is a pressing need for research in low and middle income countries, especially in the context of the rapid changes that are occurring in societies e.g. changes in family structure, urbanization and increased access to mass media and mobile phones.

Understanding the factors that shape psychosocial development in the transition from older childhood to young adolescence, and identifying effective and feasible ways of influencing this

What is the relevance of this area to Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health ?

While physical, psychological and social development extend from childhood through adolescence and into early adulthood, there is growing recognition that early adolescence (10-14 years) is an especially crucial phase. There is also widespread recognition that this phase has been neglected both in research and in action.

Although a small but not negligible proportion of early adolescents begin sexual activity and experimenting with substances, that is not the main reason for the growing attention to this life stage. Physically, this is the age when most adolescents achieve puberty. Psychologically, this is a stage of rapid increase in cognitive and emotional development. Socially, this is the phase when individuals begin to step away from parental influence to that of peers and other adults.

What is our reading of the need in this area ?

Much of the descriptive and intervention research that has been done in this area has been done in high income countries. There is a pressing need for research in this area in low and middle income countries to understand about the realities of young adolescents lives, especially in the context of the rapid changes that are occurring in societies e.g. changes in family structure, urbanization and increased access to mass media and mobile phones.

There is also a pressing need for guidance for policies and programmes to reach young adolescents and their families with interventions to build positive attitudes and behaviours that could contribute to good health now and in the future. Guidance and programmes must be based on the available research and programmatic experience.

How is RHR* responding to this need ?

RHR* is stimulating and supporting research on factors that could help or hinder the health and development of young adolescents at the individual, family, community and societal levels, and to develop and test interventions to reinforce protective factors and to overcome risk factors.

RHR is also doing the needed ground work to develop guidance on what governments and other stakeholders should do to address young adolescents effectively.


* Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR)

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