What is typical adolescent development?

Thinking and problem-solving skills development

Adolescence is a period of brain development just as much as body development. Adolescents are expected to gradually move away from concrete ways of thinking toward abstract thought. As their abstract thinking improves, adolescents become able to think through and solve increasingly complex problems. They can “read between the lines” when presented with literature, see different perspectives on an idea, approach increasingly complex mathematics, and grasp more advanced poetic, scientific, political, philosophical, and social topics. Despite that, their decision making is not always based on logic, but on big emotions and impulses.

In tandem with their advancing thinking and problem-solving skills, adolescents gradually develop their abilities to set long-term goals and make plans for how they will manage achieving those goals. Toward the end of adolescence, those long-term goals may even involve who they want to be or what education or profession they might want to pursue.


Physical development

Physically, adolescents go through “growth spurts” that can sometimes leave them feeling like clumsy strangers within their own bodies. Adolescents grow taller, their muscle mass increases, and they begin to show adult body features usually before the acquisition of their corresponding adult mental maturity. Once a challenging period of clumsiness subsides, they generally become more physically adept.

Adolescence starts with the onset of puberty. It is nonetheless normal for children and adolescents to go through puberty at different times, although the process of adolescence usually starts around 12-13 years of age. Teens need around 8 hours of sleep daily.


Social development

Adolescents experience an increasing need to feel independent from their caregivers and other family members. They may show less affection toward their caregivers and may sometimes seem rude to or even short-tempered with them. While they may seem distant at times, they remain dependent on caregivers and close family for social and emotional support.

Adolescents show an increasing interest in and can be greatly influenced by their peers and social groups. Fitting in and being accepted is often paramount. They often compare themselves to their peers or attempt to emulate other models (e.g., celebrities). Their interest in the opposite gender also gradually increases, and they become interested in engaging in and sustaining romantic relationships. 


Emotional Development

Emotional upheaval is common during adolescence. An adolescent’s pubertal hormone changes can result in rapid changes in their mood, sometimes with quick fluctuations between happiness and sadness, or kindness and anger. They are sometimes not able to help or control some of their emotional changes and learning to control them becomes a task of adolescence. Adolescents may also experience a great deal of stress stemming from the increasing demands of their schoolwork, social pressures, or the starts and stops to romantic relationships.


Where can I find more information if I have concerns about my adolescent’s development?

Development is not the same for every adolescent. Some progress through development faster than others and that is expected. A delay in one developmental area is not always a cause for concern.

However, if you are concerned about your child, additional information can be found at "I worry about my child, but how do I know what is going on?".

You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.



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