What's Teen Development All About?
Colleen Gengler, Extension Educator, emerita — Family Relations
2011. Reviewed February 2017 by Jodi Dworkin, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor — Family Social Science.
Parents often blame the ups and downs of raising a teen on one or two things such as changes in hormones or the influence of peer pressure. But there’s more to it than that.
Changes in the Teen Years
The preteen and teen years are filled with many changes. Normal teen development is made up of not only biological and physical changes, but also social, emotional, and intellectual changes. A teen is experiencing many changes in:
- Their friendships and relationships.
- How their brain functions.
- How they think.
- How they exist in the larger society.
Teens’ Developmental Tasks
Teens have many developmental tasks to accomplish as they work to figure out who they are, far more than those of infancy and early childhood. According to The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, one way teens figure out their self-concept and their self-esteem is through these five developmental tasks.
- Become independent.
- Achieve mastery or a sense of competence.
- Establish social status.
- Experience intimacy.
- Determine sexual identity.
Accomplishment of these developmental tasks happens gradually, sometimes independently and sometimes together with another task, and in no set order.
Each teen matures on his or her own timetable. Teens can be ahead of the typical age in one area of development and at the same time, behind the average age in another area. For example, consider a physically awkward 15-year-old boy who has not gotten used to the extra inches he grew in a few months. This same 15-year-old boy might possess wonderful social skills and make friends easily.
What Parents Can Do
- Expect change in your teen.
- Learn more about teen development and what’s normal.
- Remember your teen is an individual, and everyone develops differently.
Although it can be helpful for parents to remember back to when they were a teen, that isn’t enough. Parents need some basic knowledge of what to expect as their child grows into adolescence.
McNeely, C., & Blanchard, J. (2010). The teen years explained: A guide to healthy adolescent development. Baltimore: Center for Adolescent Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Steinberg, L. (2008). Adolescence. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Simpson, A. R. (2001). Raising teens: A synthesis of research and a foundation for action. Boston: Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health.
What’s Normal for Teen Development? — Learn about the biological, physical, social, and emotional changes that are occurring for teens and get tips for what parents can do. Part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teens series.
Identity: Figuring Out Who You Are — Understand how teens work out who they are by trying on new identities through experimentation with different appearances or new interests. Part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teens series.
The Teen Years Explained — Clea McNeely, PhD and Jayne Blanchard — This e-book can help both teens and adults to understand developmental changes and tips for how to apply this knowledge to your everyday life.