What is the meaning of youth

Definitions of the term "youth" © izrg

It is difficult to give a single definition of the term "youth"; there are too many different perspectives on this stage of life.

The legal perspective is clearest: in the Federal Republic of Germany, a young person is considered to be someone who is 14 to 17 years old. When they reach the age of 18, the term "adolescent" applies until they reach full adult status by reaching the age of 21. However, in Germany this regulation is used almost exclusively in juvenile criminal law, which provides for a milder punishment and can be used up to the age of 21. Young people acquire all civil rights as early as their 18th birthday; Until January 1, 1975, however, citizens of the Federal Republic were not considered to be of legal age until they were 21.

From a biological point of view, adolescence begins with the onset of puberty as a hormonally controlled change including decisive growth phases, which ends the stage of childhood and the end of which in turn marks the entry into adulthood. In parallel to this physical change, the young people must master important emotional and spiritual development steps: including developing their own value system, achieving extensive independence, especially from parents and other adult caregivers, learning gender roles and becoming familiar with their own body . One reason for the prolonged period of youth in Western societies lies in the biological definition: the trend towards an ever earlier onset of puberty has been unbroken for 140 years; Whereas the average age of girls at the time of the first period in 1860 was around 16.5 years, it is now around twelve years. This is mainly due to the significantly improved nutritional situation.

Along with this earlier biological beginning of youth, which also applies to boys, the phase of youth is extended by social factors. On the one hand, the longer average school and apprenticeship time grants more freedom to live out the youth, but on the other hand it usually means a longer-lasting economic dependency on parents or other adults. The later “professional maturity” is partly in conflict with the “elective”, “business”, “marriage” and “military maturity” attained by the age of majority. In addition, the so-called "youth myth" contributes to the prolonged persistence of youth status - today it is "chic" to be youthful. As a result, the "real" young people no longer see the achievement of adult status as being as urgent as in earlier times. Empirical social research - for example for market research - basically quantifies adolescence up to 25 years, often even up to 35 years.