Coming of Age

Coming of Age

How Adolescence Shapes Us


Adolescence is the most dramatic and formative period of our lives. It is when we become who we are, when the smallest things can have life-long effects. But it is also full of contradictions, making it bewildering to live through and widely misunderstood. We may struggle to understand the adolescents in our lives, but most of us have yet to come to terms with our own adolescence.

In this expert, empowering book, Lucy Foulkes draws on the latest research and in-depth interviews to demystify adolescent behaviours – friendship, risk-taking, sex, love, bullying and more – and expose the surprising and often moving reality beneath them. We see that teenagers are far more conservative than rebellious; that apparent recklessness is often calculated and risk-averse; that popularity is a mixed blessing even as friendships can be a life-changing good. We understand why social hierarchies are so fiercely policed, even while adolescents have an extraordinary capacity for empathy and mutual support; why appearances are overly important, and why rejection at this age hurts so much. We see that even the most difficult experiences are part of this essential and life-shaping process of self-discovery.

If our identities are a story, then the crucial first draft is written in adolescence. Coming of Age helps us read that story with clarity and compassion so that we can appreciate the adolescents we know but also those we once were – those wild and fragile people who helped us become who we are.


  • A compelling, useful and fascinating exploration of the emotional earthquake that is adolescence, revealing its unwritten rules and some really vital insights into crossing the rocky terrain between childhood and adulthood
    Jo Brand

About the author

Lucy Foulkes

Dr Lucy Foulkes is an academic psychologist. She is currently a Prudence Trust Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where she leads research into adolescent mental health and social development. She is also an honorary lecturer in psychology at UCL. She is the author of What Mental Illness Really Is (and What It Isn't) and has written for the Guardian, New Scientist and other publications. Her work has been discussed on BBC 2’s Newsnight and reported in The Times, Economist, New York Times and Atlantic, and she has appeared on BBC Radio 4's All in the Mind and Start the Week.
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