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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Teens

NATALIE COULTER

York University, Canada

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs227

The term “teen” refers to a category of young people loosely aged 13 to around age 17 or 18, who are no longer children but have not fully taken on adult responsibilities. The reference to young people as teens is a product of a developing youth culture that largely came about in the mid-twentieth century in the United States. The teen market is a distinct youth market and culture with particular patterns of consumption and tastes made possible by the affluence of the post-World War II economy when middle-class families could defer having their adolescent children enter the labor market. The term teens, along with teenagers, or sometimes even teeners, was beginning to be used as early as the 1930s, but came to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s in the United States. Advertisers and manufacturers referenced the teen as the new target market of affluent young people. In doing so, these industries started to play an active role in shaping and disseminating the tastes, styles, and attitudes of teenagers in the United States.

Prior to the nineteenth century, the liminal space between childhood and adulthood was not fully recognized as a separate stage in the life course. As a life stage this period of liminality, known as adolescence, was described by G. Stanley Hall in the early 1900s. Hall understood adolescence as a physiological stage of transformation, or awakening. He saw adolescence as a period ...

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