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The impact of developmental change

In this video Donna Pendergast talks about the impact of developmental change on adolescent social and emotional wellbeing.

Biological changes such as changes in brain structure and increased hormone activity impact on adolescents’ thinking and behaviour.

Impacting adult life

There is a large and growing amount of research that clearly shows links between social and emotional competencies in children and young adolescents as being predictors of adult outcomes. Well-developed social and emotional skills can be a positive predictor of success in a range of areas in adult life, however, the inverse is also true.

Being aware of the complex changes during adolescence, we can better understand and capitalise on this impressionable period and support young people during this stage of development. Substantial lifelong benefits are possible if we are able to enhance the development of young adolescents’ social and emotional skills. In particular, skill sets that promote self-control and self-regulation, as well as social skills and emotional wellbeing can have positive effects in their adult life.1

Self-control and self-regulation

Self-control and self-regulation, which are often described as externalising behaviours and conscientiousness, are associated with:

  • positive mental health and life-satisfaction and wellbeing
  • higher qualifications
  • better physical health, including reduced incidences of obesity and lower rates of smoking and drug taking
  • lower representations in criminal activity
  • lower mortality rates

Positive self-esteem

Importantly, developing a positive sense of self (self-efficacy) and self-awareness enables young people to feel in control. When young adolescents have a sense of ‘I can’, it supports educational attainment leading to:

  • career success
  • improved socio-economic status
  • positive mental health and wellbeing

Positive self-esteem is also important for outcomes such as personal life satisfaction.

Social skills and emotional wellbeing

Social skills are important to support positive relationships with family, peers and others. These relationships provide a strong support network that results in an overall sense of wellbeing and supports mental health and other health behaviours. Emotional wellbeing has been found to be a powerful predictor of mental wellbeing and socioeconomic outcomes.2

Your task

Watch the video about the impact of developmental change on adolescent social and emotional wellbeing.

Combine your new knowledge, with what you learned from Step 1.12 Emotional responses in the brain, to answer the following questions.

List some ways you can support the development of:

  1. self-control and self-regulation (the ability to regulate feelings and behaviours)
  2. self-efficacy and self-awareness (the ability to reflect and have a positive sense of self)
  3. social skills (the ability interact and communicate positively with others)

Share your answers in the comments.


  1. Steinberg L. Age of opportunity: Lessons from the new science of adolescence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2014. 

  2. Goodman A, Joshi H, Nasim B, Tyler C. Social and emotional skills in childhood and their long-term effects on adult life. London: Institute of Education; 2015. 

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Supporting Adolescent Learners: Social and Emotional Wellbeing

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