Growing Pains: The Astrology of Adolescence

growing-page-front-cover1“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings” Anonymous

Many factors of adolescence are not new phenomena but very old problems. We are familiar with the wanton abandon Juliet showed to her Romeo at the tender age of 13 in Elizabethan England. Going back even further to a different place, according to Socrates, adolescents were “inclined to contradict their parents and tyrannise their teachers.” By the 20th century, G.S. Hall (1904) had described adolescence as “storm and stress” and by the 1960s and 1970s, the latest thinking was that the teenage tantrums, rebellion and angst was down to raging hormones. More recent research is increasingly pointing to neurological factors and the adolescent brain’s unique development that is nothing more than nature taking its course. It would seem that there is nothing a parent or teacher can do but casually wait for the adolescent storm to blow over.

But is there really nothing that can be done to ease this transition into adulthood? Can astrologers take advantage of their knowledge of the roles of Jupiter and Saturn in human development and use it not only to time when biological changes are due to take place but to strategically employ interventions to ease the process of growing up?

The cycles of Jupiter and Saturn

With an orbit of just over 11½ years, Jupiter squares oppositions and returns happen approximately every three years: at age 3, at the waxing Jupiter square, toilet training and language development means a child is able, with help from his care givers, to expand his social circles through travel and play; at age 6, the first opposition, he can demonstrate rote mastery of letters and sounds and if he attends a public school, will have been encouraged to take that leap of faith into putting those sounds and letters together to form words; by age 9, the waning Jupiter square, he is able to present and argue for his beliefs and he also understands the difference between a “real” threat such as kidnapping compared to a “fantasy” threat such as goblins and dragons. It is at the first Jupiter return, at about the age of 11-12, that things start to get very interesting.

At the age of 11-12, in both the United States and in the United Kingdom, there is usually a transition into a bigger school: they meet more children from different schools who may have different religious or philosophical beliefs, they take on more lessons with different teachers, they take on new interests and consequently and “coincidentally” expand their horizons—exactly what astrologer might expect in any Jupiter return. They will grow physically as fast as they had as infants. New neural pathways are being formed as hormones are released. Many teachers and parents will describe the years following the first Jupiter return as a challenging. It usually remains a difficult time until the first Saturn opposition at about the age of 14 when a whole new set of difficulties arise.

Data from a London school demonstrates that poor behaviour peaks at about the age of 12-13, just after the first Jupiter return but before the first saturn opposition. “Poor behaviour” can be described as minor offences such being ill equipped for class to more serious (and excludable) offences such open defiance, racist remarks or violence. It can be seen that “year 8,” (grade 7 in the US) the year that corresponds to the time in which most of the year group has experienced the first Jupiter return but not the Saturn opposition, shows a higher number of reports of poor behaviour. This data is typical.

In contrast to the Jupiter cycle, Saturn’s orbit is just under 30 years, with squares, oppositions and return happening at about every 7 years. Thus, as Saturn traditionally rules the hard parts of the body such as the teeth, we see 7 year olds with obviously missing milk teeth at the first waxing Saturn square; at 14, the once rowdy post Jupiter return adolescents are starting to take their studies seriously because they are contemplating the responsibilities in the working world as a reality. Many pupils of this age also wear orthodontics, perhaps a reflection of the first Saturn square. In the US, they are freshmen in high school, in the UK, they start to choose the subjects they want to study and participate in work experience to give them a flavour of the reality of having a job. By 21, the waning square, he is usually at the height of his physical power and by 30, the time of the first Saturn return, there is usually a grim reminder that human life does not last forever.

The Astrology of Brain Development in Adolescence

The years between the first Jupiter return and first Saturn opposition creates a veritable window of opportunity for development if it is used correctly. It used to be thought that only infants had an abundance of neural connections that were effectively pruned around the age of 3[1] (the first waxing Jupiter square). However, it is now thought that there is a second burst in neuronal development around the time of the first Jupiter return. Although the child usually experiences a physical growth spurt at this age, the brain needs time to catch up. This creates a problem where one had not existed before: adolescents of this age base their decisions on information from the limbic system (particularly the amygdala which is responsible for emotions and memories) rather than the more adult like rational prefrontal cortex which is underdeveloped at this stage[2]at the same time they are undertaking new experiences. Not only do they lack the practice of handling new situations, they lack the decision making processes that may protect them from harm.

Another symptom of adolescence is the perceived “laziness” of teenagers. During the growth spurt, a major circadian (traditionally, the cycles of sleep are ruled by the Sun and Moon) shift happens causing an adolescent to have trouble falling asleep and waking at the same time as they did as a younger child or they will as a fully grown adult. The tendency to adjust bedtimes for weekends and vacations exacerbates an already disturbed sleeping pattern thus creating a downward spiral of needing more and more sleep.

As in infancy, once new neuronal paths are developed, they are pruned at a time coinciding with the first Saturn opposition at about the age of 14-15. From the chart above, it would also appear that behaviour improves as the adolescent matures. In brain development, a “use or lose it” premise is in operation: the habits of a lifetime are being formed at this time.

At about the same time as the Saturn opposition, Jupiter makes its first post return sextile to its natal placement. Although the behaviour of pupils improves in school as they take on new responsibilities, outside of school and home things are very different: adolescents of this age begin to enjoy taking more risks. This is far more pronounced when they are in the company of their peers. During this stage of their lives, adolescents should be at their most physically resilient and healthiest but statistics show they are at their most vulnerable to fatal accidents and suicide. Much of this is directly due to problems with controlling their behaviour and emotions. As astrologers we might recognise a brush of death as being appropriate for a Saturn opposition. But something else is going on here. In addition to the Jupiter sextile, Uranus also makes its first Ptolemaic aspect (also by sextile) at this time, thus creating a surge of reckless, irresponsible and quite often outrageous behaviour. Further, although Uranus does not rule adolescence per se, the planet’s association with rebellion reflects one of the main symptoms of this age group. Studies have shown that adolescents are more sensitive to dopamine, a chemical released by the brain during the excitement of near misses, rather than the more neutral reactions caused by playing it safe.[3] Thus bad habits established during adolescence can be incredibly hard to break—and this gives us all the more reason to consider the effects of the experiences adolescence have an individual and, more importantly, to do something about it.

This notion of the instability of adolescence is reflected in our laws to protect them: they can’t vote, legally drive or consume alcohol until well past the first Saturn opposition. The boisterousness expected of Jupiter and Uranus has a natural restraint in the more Saturnine collective consciousness. The astrological key here appears to be to exploit Jupiter’s role at the return, work with Saturn’s role at the first Saturn opposition in order to reign in the potential risks of Uranus and Jupiter at the sextile.

Jupiter and Saturn in the Classroom

Parents usually do not have to deal with more than one or two adolescents at one time. Teachers however have a very different problem: they often have to manage 30 adolescents at once as well as actually have to teach them something. If a teacher is aware of the cycles of Jupiter and Saturn, they can fine tune this information to take into account the signs these planets occupy.

To explore how Jupiter and Saturn work in a classroom, let us use three celebrity examples. Although all three have AA ratings, with a few exceptions, a date of birth is all that is needed to determine the signs of Jupiter and Saturn.

Theoretically, Angelina Jolie (4 June 1975, 9:09 am, Los Angeles CA, Rodden rating: AA, collector: Rodden), Drew Barrymore (22 February 1975, 11:51 am Culver City CA, Rodden rating: AA, collector: Wilsons) and Leonardo DiCaprio (11 November 1974, 2:47 am Los Angeles CA, Rodden rating: AA, collector: Clifford) could have been in the 7th grade class as they all would have turned the age of twelve before 1 September 1986.

Here is the graphic ephemeris for the year of the birth which shows the motions of Jupiter and Saturn and the celebrities’ placement on it. This shows that although DiCaprio was born with Jupiter in Pisces, the planet had just gone through a period of retrograde motion. Barrymore was born as Jupiter spent a longer time in forward motion whilst Jolie had been born when Jupiter had changed into the sign of Aries. As for Saturn, all three had Saturn in Cancer. However, DiCaprio was born during a time of retrograde motion, Barrymore was also born during Saturn’s retrograde motion but it would turn direct just weeks after her birth and Jolie was born during the time of direct motion. Although these may seem to be minor points could they have an impact on adolescence?


The motions of the planets at birth certainly have an impact on how many conjunctions of Jupiter or oppositions of Saturn there are in adolescence. DiCaprio had one single Jupiter return towards the end of March 1986 making him about 11 years 5 months old for this return. Barrymore had a single Jupiter return just before her twelfth birthday, as did Jolie. DiCaprio was quite significantly younger than Barrymore and Jolie when he has his first Jupiter return.

The story of Saturn in the lives of these adolescents is very different. DiCaprio would have his first Saturn opposition (in a series of three) at about the age of 15 years and three months. The last Saturn opposition was when he was nearly 16 years of age. Barrymore also had three Saturn oppositions but she had her first Saturn opposition at age 14 years and 3 months and the final at 14 years 10 months. By contrast, Jolie had a single Saturn opposition at about the age of 14 years 7 months.

The outcome

DiCaprio’s parents had divorced when he was still a baby[4] and post Jupiter return but pre Saturn opposition, he appeared in commercials and educational films. It wasn’t until after the Saturn opposition that he made his break into television and later the big screen. He spent nearly four years in the growing phase and was nearly sixteen when the final Saturn opposition took place, making him older than expected for this opposition. It was as if he needed time to prepare himself for the responsibilities with which fame and fortune would eventually bestow upon him. DiCaprio is a very good example of a Hollywood “megastar” who has not imploded on his own success. After the success of “The Titanic” in 1997 (released just before his second Jupiter return), DiCaprio had to carefully choose his projects and not allow himself to be swept away in the enthusiasm of directors who want to cast him in the wake of his successes. Could the extended time between the first Jupiter return and final Saturn opposition simply have given him more time to grow and adjust into adulthood?

Barrymore, also the child of a single parent, most obviously lived out the Jupiter in Pisces excesses: she was already smoking, drinking and taking drugs[5] by the time of her first Jupiter return Barrymore spent just over two years in the stage between the first Jupiter return and the first Saturn opposition, a markedly shorter time than DiCaprio. She had her first Jupiter return later than expected at the age of twelve but she had her first Saturn opposition just after her 14th birthday about 6 months earlier than expected, thus spending less time in the astrological growing phase.  Natally, her Mars and Moon are implicated in the first Saturn opposition: she attempted suicide by cutting her wrists with a kitchen knife and eventually sought sobriety with the help of David Crosby.[6] Her third and final Saturn opposition occurred when she was nearly fifteen and shortly afterwards she was legally emancipated from her mother.[7] In contrast to DiCaprio, Barrymore had to grow up quickly astrologically. As she was a household name from the age of 5 (thanks to the ET), her awkward era between her first Jupiter return and first Saturn opposition was played out in a dramatically public way—something interviewers like to remind us of. Barrymore did not choose to be an actress; it was imposed on her or overcame her in Jupiter in Pisces style as part of her familial heritage.[8]

The younger half of that year group had Jupiter in Aries, thus setting Jolie apart from DiCaprio and Barrymore. Jolie’s parents had also split up by the time she entered adolescence. From a young age, she seemed to know what she wanted: she wanted to be an actor like her parents.[9] Her first Jupiter return was just before her 12th birthday, an average age for the event and she happily attended a stage school. By the time of her first Saturn opposition, when she was about 14½, she dropped out of stage school and began to attend an ordinary school due to her mother’s financial difficulties. She was continually bullied—the only one of this group to make this complaint–for her unusual features and underweight frame[10]. Although she only experienced one Jupiter return and one Saturn opposition (at the times we would expect), Jolie was remembered as a strange child who didn’t really fit in amongst her peers. She began cutting herself to release the tension she felt (natally she had Moon conjunct Mars and Jupiter opposite Pluto) and, as the only one of the three with Jupiter-Saturn aspects natally (in her case a square), Jolie decided to completely change her career path. She wanted to be a funeral director and even took embalming classes[11]. Interestingly, Jupiter transited her triple conjunction in Aries when she began self-harming. Uranus transited the same conjunction when she had an elective double mastectomy in effort to avoid breast cancer for which she was genetically prone earlier this year.

Digging a Little Deeper and looking a little closer

Pupils with addiction problems such as Barrymore or deep emotional problems such as Jolie may or may not stand out. This is one of the many reasons it is so important for parents of adolescents to have a good relationship with their child’s school: one side informs the other. Not even astrology can fill all the gaps!

Lena Zavaroni (4 November 1963, 00:45, Greenock Scotland, UK, Rodden rating: AA, collector: Wright), born two Jupiter cycles before Jolie on 4 April 1963, experienced her first Jupiter return later than expected, a month after her 12th birthday. Natally she had Jupiter in Aries and Saturn in Aquarius with Saturn and Mercury in Scorpio in a square aspect to her natal Saturn. By adolescence, she was already a star, having won “Opportunity Knocks” and had travelled to America to perform on the “Johnny Carson Show”. She was a beautiful, if precocious child, the owner of a phenomenal voice. She knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. During the period of time between her Jupiter return and Saturn opposition, she began to grow rapidly, a trait that did not go unnoticed by her costume fitters who complained that they had to continually let the seams out of her clothes. Natally, Zavaroni had Saturn in Aquarius with Saturn in Leo opposing it and all the problems of self consciousness became apparent in an extremely short period of time, about a year and half, in the time between her first Jupiter return and first Saturn opposition. Anorexia took hold and with the final Saturn opposition at the age of thirteen years nine months, her growing phase was significantly short. She later said the costumes prevented her from developing as a woman. Sadly opportunity knocked but the reality of seeing one’s self with any sense of balance was lost on this wonderful talent.

The late 80s, the 90s and right into the 21st century, gun crime amongst adolescents have become frighteningly all too frequent. Gun crime is almost exclusively gender specific with young males far more likely to bring guns and other weapons to school than their female counterparts. As we have seen in the cases of Jolie and Zavaroni, young women are more likely to turn their anger against their own bodies. Boys tend to turn their aggression outwards. Astrologers are likely to recognise the influences of Venus and Mars in these tendencies. For example, on closer inspection of Zavaroni’s chart, it can be seen Venus is conjunct Chiron and opposite to both Uranus and Pluto (in wide conjunction).

Kipland Kinkel (30 September 1982, Springfiled Oregon, Rodden rating: X, source of birth date: Wikipedia) is an extreme example of the problems that can be experienced in adolescence. Kinkel was born on 30 September 1982 and experienced his first Jupiter return at 11 years four months but owing to the forward and retrograde motions of transiting Jupiter, experienced three returns—in sharp contrast to the previous examples. By this time, he had been in serious trouble for shoplifting, violence and had shown an interest in making bombs.[12] He also experienced three Saturn oppositions, the first at age fourteen years eleven months and the final at fifteen years seven months. A few months after the final Saturn opposition, Kinkel shot his parents to death, then went to school and shot thirty seven fellow pupils, killing two. An astrologer looking at his chart before the tragedy would have been able to see the lunacy in providing a child with Jupiter and Mars in loose conjunction in Scorpio loaded guns with which to practice. Sadly this was not the decision reached by Kip’s father when looking for a solution to his son’s behavioural problems.[13]

Kinkel’s problems extended well before the final Saturn opposition and it is worth looking at his early education to gain an insight into the astrological significations. He was born into a family of academics, his parents both being Spanish teachers and his sister showing no sign of social dysfunction. Just after Kinkel’s first Jupiter opposition (at the age of 6) as Jupiter would have been in Scorpio, the family moved to Spain where he attended a non-English speaking school.[14] A problem for learners with Jupiter in Scorpio at this age, as transit Jupiter in Taurus opposes its own position, is that of control: the need to be unmoving no matter who is applying pressure to shift. Seeing no progress at this time, the teachers in Spain regarded him as immature and lacking in physical and emotional development. On their recommendations, his parents agreed to make him repeat the first grade upon their return to the USA during his first Saturn square. This is a highly important time when a learner is learning one of education’s most important skills: reading and writing and arithmetic and it had devastating consequences on a young boy who, with Saturn in Libra, may have been vulnerable to social problems with his peers. Kipland lost an important opportunity to learn and this loss exponentially increased until a few years later, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and he received extensive educational support. Even so, his emotional needs were completely misunderstood.

A few final thoughts on Uranus

Although the first Jupiter sextile after the return may be enough to explain risk taking in 14-15 year olds, it is worth making a few final comments on Uranus. The so called digital revolution began around the time of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction so at this first quarter phase (Uranus square Pluto), we are only just beginning to get a glimpse of things to come. Currently, the Uranus-Pluto square has generated much debate about the economy and an impending financial crisis. The impact of technology on adolescents has been completely overlooked. The tragic news of several adolescents in the UK committing suicide due to the on line bullying they had endured[15] is one sad outcome of what can happen through our society’s obsession with high tech gadgets, the internet and our increasing reliance on artificial intelligence. “Askfm” has emerged as a particularly nasty website whereby anonymous posts can be made to someone’s Facebook wall. It is emerging that easily accessed pornography is having a devastating effect on the adolescents who become addicted to it. Urgent legislation for the monitoring of the internet and mobile phones for the under 18s is something those of us in authority need to sit up and provide. Our undervalued guidance and experience may be unwelcome in a society which puts disproportionate emphasis on youth but our young people need to stop tweeting, BBMing (Blackberry messaging) and Facebooking and get some fresh air. And if they can’t monitor their usage themselves (and they really can’t), then we need to get in there and do it for them. That is the challenge of the Uranus-Pluto square.

There is much more work that can be done with the slower moving outer planets and, of course, with Saturn and Jupiter, so we can make a better attempt to offer genuine help to the people who will be looking after us one day.

Teaching hints: Jupiter through the signs

Knowing the sign Jupiter occupies gives a heads up to how a child grows, how he likes to learn and what may appeal to him to keep interest. During the growth process of adolescence this type of information may have an important impact on a child’s progress because the brain development “coincides” with the Jupiter return and is the type that is wiring up new neuronal pathways. These are just a few general ideas on how to exploit Jupiter during crucial learning points.

Aries (see Angelina Jolie or Lena Zavaroni in this article): These learners like a good race. Keep lessons at a good pace and create a sense of competition in the classroom. Teach these children to self assess and keep track of their progress. Encourage them to compare their results to others so they can see where they stand. Very often these children will hone in on one skill in which they become unbeatable.

Taurus: These learners like to use their senses but they also need time to digest what they have learned so be careful not to lay out too much at once. Using project folders, so they can add or take away pages, could be just one way of letting them indulge in their love of collecting things.

Gemini: These learners polarise into super speedy or super reluctant—and very often this tendency has its roots in their experiences of learning to read. These learners have seen knowledge worshipped like God and they will see God as a harsh judge on those who can’t read so reluctant learners will take great pains to conceal their lack of ability.

Cancer: These learners usually have a great love of history and a tendency to rely on their memories rather than rational information. They might like to be involved in charities or in activities that make them feel they are doing something to make the world a better place. Linking lessons to creating a home or taking care of a family may motivate them to do more cerebral work such as Algebra.

Leo: These learners love drama so incorporate opportunities to show off their acting skills. Display or record their work (but warn them first) so they can see themselves—and each other–in the best possible light. Encourage them to show their generous and altruistic side or you will never get them off the stage.

Virgo: These learners like precision and order. It doesn’t bother them to do the same thing over and over but it will bother them to submit less than perfect work. They can be brutal with criticism so always ensure clear ground rules are followed in peer—or self—assessments.

Libra: These learners like to work with others but in paired learning, it needs to be strategic. Putting them with someone they really like or someone they really hate and you basically have the same problem—no work gets done.

Scorpio (see Kipland Kinkel in this article): These learners have an uncanny sense of what makes others uncomfortable and they will use this to avoid Physics lessons if you let them think they got under your skin. Occasionally let these pupils indulge in their passion for graphic literature but also put their excellent research skills to good use.

Sagittarius: These pupils tend to think they know everything so the things they come out with can be very insensitive. They like “big ideas” but tend to need guidance in looking at the details. Linking lessons to religious beliefs not only gives them a chance to explore issues such as compassion and dignity but gives them an opportunity to see life from another person’s perspective.

Capricorn: These learners enjoy holding posts of responsibility but in a classroom of 30 pupils, not everyone can be an elder statesman. They usually have a frightening realistic view of the world and if they are aware of the competition around them, will rise to the challenge. They need to know where they stand amongst their peers

Aquarius: Although this sign is symbolised by a human, often these learners have the inkling they are not really human at all. They love high tech gadgets and use them in ways you never thought possible. As a class, they will be very inventive but will not like to do what everyone else is doing. Give them space to explore alternative answers to traditional questions.

Jupiter in Pisces (See Leonardo DiCaprio or Drew Barrymore in this article): These learners are sensitive to the ambiance of the classroom so can shut down if they feel threatened. Consequently they might miss something important. They will need lots of reminders, helpful displays and plenty of opportunity to use their ample imaginations.

“Growing Pains” can be bought on Amazon, Midheaven Books and other book retailers.
To find your Jupiter and Saturn signs, enter your birth data at Astrodienst or contact Alex for further information.

[1] 10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About their Teen’s Brain” Nixon, Robin, article found online at: website retrieved by author August 2013

[2] Ibid

[3] “Teen Brain Wired for Risk” Nauert, Rick article found on line at: Website retrieved by author August 2013

[4] Catalano, Grace (February 1997). Leonardo DiCaprio: Modern-Day Romeo. New York, New York: Dell Publishing Group. pp. 7–15

[5] “Drew Barrymore Profile” Hello Magazine. Article available online at: Retrieved by author August 2011

[6] “Drew Barrymore Biography” People Article available online at: Retrieved by author August 2011

[7] Ibid

[8] Stein Hoffman, Carol. The Barrymores: Hollywood’s First Family. University Press of Kentucky, 2001

[9] Wills, Dominic. “Angelina Jolie Biography” Available online at: Retrieved by author August 2011

[10] Ibid

[11] Heath, Chris. “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic”. Rolling Stone. Available online at: Retrieved by author August 2011

[12] Frontline: An interview with Kristen Kinkel, article available online at: Retrieved by author September 2013

[13] “The Killer at Thurston High: Who is Kip Kinkel?” Retrieved by author August 2013

[14] Ibid

[15] “Cyberbullying Suicides: What will it take to have to shut down?” Retrieved by author August 2013

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