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Typical Adolescence Development

This article provides you with a clear picture of the different types and phases of development adolescents are going through.

What does “typical” development look like during adolescence?

To provide a clearer picture of this different physiological, cognitive, social, and emotional development during adolescence it may be helpful to look at what a typical younger and older adolescent is going through.

Physical

Early adolescence (10-14 years) Late adolescence (15-19 years)
Puberty begins (females usually mature 1-2 years earlier than males) Males often experience continued height and weight gains
Gains in height and weight Female physical growth slows down
Increased perspiration and oil production in skin and hair
Growth of pubic and underarm hair
Females: breast development and menstruation
Males: growth of testicles and penis, nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), deepening of voice, facial hair

Cognitive

Early adolescence (10-14 years) Late adolescence (15-19 years)
Interests tend to focus on the present Interests expand to focus on future
Often consumed by unrealistic/unattainable goals and future expectations The ability for foresight grows along with emphasis on goals, ambitions, role in life
Intellectual interests expand and gain more importance Capacity for setting goals and following through increases
Increased awareness of physical attractiveness and physical changes Work habits become more defined
Capacity for abstract thinking increases Planning capability expands
Risk-taking behaviors may emerge Risk-taking behaviors may become more regular before waning
Begin to develop more defined personal opinions, values, and identity Increased ability to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings
Ability to use speech to express feelings improve Increased ability to make decisions independently
Improved problem-solving skills

Social and Emotional

Early adolescence (10-14 years) Late adolescence (15-19 years)
Sense of identity develops Firmer and more cohesive sense of personal identity develops
Focus on self increases which may result in feeling awkward or strange about themselves and their bodies Examination of inner experiences (reflection) becomes more important
Realization grows that parents are not perfect, have faults Decreased interest in family activities
Overt affection toward parents declines Peer relationships remain important with increased focus on time with friends
Complaints about parents interfering with independence can increase Social networks expand and new friendships are formed
Desire to expand social network and test authority figures Concern for others increases
Close friendships gain importance Ability for delayed gratification and compromise increases
Friends and peers influence clothing styles and interests Emotional steadiness/regulation increases
Decreased impulse control and more intense emotions

Continue to the next step to watch a video about why “typical” adolescent development is not so typical after all. We will also discuss the main developmental tasks that adolescents are working through.

The information presented in this step was adapted from the following resources:
Kutcher, S., Hashish, M., & Johnston, E. (2019). Parenting your teen: Adolescent development primer for parents.
McNeely, C., & Blanchard, J. (2009). The teen years explained: A guide to healthy adolescent development. Baltimore, MD.
Spano, S. (2004). Stages of adolescent development. Ithaca, NY.
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