Screen Readers Skip to Content

Sexual Diversity: Sexuality and Female Adolescence

Updated/Revised Date: 19th Sep 2022
Author: Sexual Diversity | Contact:
Additional References: Adolescent Girls Publications

Synopsis: Topics explored include gender roles, body image concerns, relationships with family and peers, sexual decision-making, experiences at school and community, and health and safety concerns.


Female Adolescence

These terms are often used interchangeably for teenagers, adolescents, adolescence, and puberty, but there are significant differences. Teenagers and adolescents are similar terms and refer to the same span of years of age. However, adolescence is when youth engage in the developmental tasks of adolescence. Girls experience puberty as a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress through these changes differently. There are specific stages of development that girls go through when developing secondary sexual characteristics. The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically but also mentally and socially. Children in these years increase their ability to think abstractly, make plans, and set long-term goals.

Main Section

There are over one billion adolescents between 10 and 19, accounting for about 20 percent of the world's population. More than 85 percent of these young people live in the developing world!

Topics explored in this section include; those at the heart of adolescence, including gender role prescriptions, body image concerns, the neglected experiences of adolescent girls of color, relationships with family and peers, sexual decision making, experiences at school and in the community, and health and safety concerns.

Despite substantial evidence of the success of both school-based health clinics and access to sexual information, most public schools do not sanction or provide information on enhancing the development of sexual responsibility and subjectivity in adolescents. As a result, female students, particularly low-income ones, suffer most from the inadequacies of present sex education policies. Current practices and language lead to increased experiences of victimization, teenage pregnancy, and increased dropout rates and exacerbate the vulnerability of young women whom schools, and the critics of sex education and school-based health clinics, claim to protect.

Adolescence is a moment when sexuality, identity, and relationships are heightened; at adolescence, women begin to be vulnerable to losing touch with their thoughts and feelings. Cultural contexts that render girls' sexuality problematic and dangerous divert them from the possibilities of empowerment through their sexual desire.

Sexual minority adolescent girls may follow diverse sexual developmental trajectories. Many in the population are quite healthy, but some may be disproportionately vulnerable to health risks, perhaps because of the stigma associated with minority sexuality in society. If sexually active, girls in this population often have sex with boys and girls and confront risks with sex with both genders. They may demonstrate fluidity in their sexual identity as they move through adolescence.

High HIV-related sexual risk behaviors among lesbian and bisexual female adolescents have been documented. However, previous research has not adequately described racial/ethnic subgroup differences in risk behaviors within this population. Girls who identified their race/ethnicity as mixed had more than four times the odds of reporting unprotected vaginal sex with a male and multiple male sex partners. All subgroups exhibited risk behaviors, indicating that sexual minority girls must be included in HIV prevention efforts targeting adolescent females.

Data also suggests sexual minority adolescent girls are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs compared with girls who are heterosexual. They may be more likely to be victims of violence or victimization and be depressed or suicidal.

Over the last decade, support has grown at national and international levels for strengthening gender equity, improving reproductive health, and protecting the rights of all people - including adolescents - to make informed decisions regarding reproductive matters and other important aspects of their lives. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which defines childhood as ending at age 18, and the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) jointly provide a comprehensive foundation for efforts to define and respect the rights of adolescents. Both documents acknowledge the close relationship between human rights and human development. Both understand the necessary relationship between rights and capabilities: without social and economic capabilities, adolescents will be unable to make choices, access services, and have productive lives. Finally, both recognize the impossibility of protecting human rights without promoting gender equality.

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Adolescent Girls Publications

The above information is from our reference library of material relating to Adolescent Girls that includes:

Hormones May Affect Girls Interests But Not Gender Identity or Playmates thumbnail image.
Prenatal exposure to male hormones influence which activities girls are interested in, but effects of those hormones do not extend to gender identity or who they socialize with.
Publish Date: 1st Mar 2018 - Updated: 5th Nov 2022
Psychological Problems Last Into Adulthood for Girls Who Mature Early thumbnail image.
Girls who get periods early more psychologically vulnerable as teenagers with more frequent and severe mental health problems, from depression to anxiety, eating disorders, delinquency, substance abuse and failing or dropping out of school.
Publish Date: 1st Mar 2018
Social Media Promotes Skeletal Images of Women Using #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration Hashtag thumbnail image.
Images of thin female bodies with protruding bones and skinny limbs posted on social media with hashtags #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration.
Publish Date: 23rd Oct 2017
Girls Start Believing Harmful Gender Stereotypes by Age 6 thumbnail image.
Research reveals stereotyping affects girls as young as 6 years old, often influencing their activity choices.
Publish Date: 27th Jan 2017
Study Finds Girls Feel Unprepared For Puberty thumbnail image.
Research reveals girls from low-income families in the U.S. are unprepared for puberty and have largely negative experiences of this transition.
Publish Date: 5th Jan 2017

1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Gender Terms
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.

• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.

• (APA): (2022, September 19). Sexual Diversity: Sexuality and Female Adolescence. Retrieved December 5, 2023 from

• Permalink: <a href="">Sexual Diversity: Sexuality and Female Adolescence</a>