Essay by angellaUniversity, Master'sC, April 2006

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Whereas the term puberty refers to the period of physical maturation, the term adolescence typically refers to the socially defined period during which a person adjusts to the physical, emotional, and social changes associated with the transition from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence, which occurs from about the age of 12 to the age of 17 or older, is a period marked by increased sexual behavior. By the end of adolescence, two-thirds of young women and almost all young men have masturbated to orgasm. In recent decades, surveys indicate that more adolescents have begun engaging in intercourse at a younger age. However, studies of college students often find that 20 to 30 percent of these students have not had sexual intercourse. Adolescence can be particularly difficult for teens who feel different from their peers. Sexually active adolescents may wonder if their peers are abstinent, while sexually inactive adolescents may believe that their peers are sexually active.

Others may struggle with same-sex attractions.

Sexual orientation may become a question during puberty or adolescence. The term sexual orientation refers to a person's erotic, romantic, or affectional attraction to the other sex, the same sex, or both. A person who is attracted to the other sex is labeled heterosexual, or sometimes straight. A person attracted to the same sex is labeled homosexual. The word gay may be used to describe homosexuals and is most often applied to men, whereas the term lesbian is applied to homosexual women. A person who is attracted to both men and women is labeled bisexual. A transsexual is a person whose sense of self is not consistent with his or her anatomical sex--for example, a person whose sense of self is female but who has male genitals. Homosexuality is not synonymous with transsexuality. Homosexual men's sense of self...