Adolescent Development Stages

Adolescent Development Stages

Adolescents display peculiar behavioral and mental characteristics in each of the three development stages. The following article explains these stages in detail.
Adolescence is a very delicate period in one's life. It arouses various internal conflicts, as in this phase, one is neither a child, nor an adult. It is a very challenging period for the parents too, as parenting teenagers involves coping with their moods and behavioral changes. There are basically three stages which every child goes through, although the ages at which the child experiences these and the duration of each stage varies. The three stages of adolescent development are:

Early Stage (11-14 years)

Physical Development
  • This is when puberty sets in.
  • Girls experience breast and hip development, along with the onset of menstruation. Boys experience growth in testicles along with characteristic deepening of voice.
  • Tremendous physical growth (height and weight) is observed in such fresh teens.
  • This is also that phase when teens develop greater sexual interest due to raging hormones.
Cognitive Development
  • Abstract thoughts start occurring, and moral thinking deepens.
  • Intellectual interests expand, and are considered more important.
  • Thoughts are mostly restricted to the present, and do not expand much towards future.
Social-Emotional Development
  • In this stage, the teens are still coming to terms with their identity, as in who they are.
  • They experience moodiness, and are often irritable.
  • They are still developing their communication skills, so they express themselves better through actions instead of words.
  • During early adolescence, the girls outperform boys, and develop skills faster. There is a tendency to show off one's skills and qualities.
  • Family ties are weak, and parents are no longer looked up to like before. There is more trust in the friendships forged outside home.
  • Sense of dressing and interests depend upon that of friends. Friendships are mostly among the same gender.
  • The teen may display childish behavior whenever stressed out.
  • Teens like to experiment with their bodies, and thus resort to masturbation. Teens are still discovering their sexuality, and may worry whether they are sexually normal or not.
  • Teens may experiment with forbidden substances and things.
  • Privacy and independence suddenly become a necessity
Middle Stage (15-18 years)

Physical Development
  • This is when puberty is completed.
  • The physical growth among girls slackens, while that in boys continues.
Cognitive Development
  • Capacity of abstract thinking is continually developing.
  • Intellectual development starts taking place. Analysis of life and inner self starts at this point.
  • The teen selects his/her role models, and even sets goals.
  • A sense of morality and ethics develops.
Social-Emotional Development
  • There is a somewhat developed sense of self-identity. The focus shifts on self-improvement.
  • Teens lay great emphasis on the bodily and outer appearance. The changes in the body due to puberty may make them self-conscious. Sometimes, they might feel inferior to the others.
  • Relationship with the parents becomes stressful. Parents are considered interfering, leading to emotional withdrawal. An adolescent may feel that he/she has lost the support of the parents, and this might make them feel sad and lonely.
  • The focus is on making new friends. The teens identify with their peer group.
  • Having a heightened sexual energy, one may experience love and passion for the first time. In this phase, relationships with the opposite sex may be entered into, and also exited from, very quickly.
  • Still being at a stage for discovering their own sexuality, teens consider both, homosexuality and heterosexuality. Sex education thus becomes essential.
Late Stage (19-21 years)

Physical Development
  • Girls have become fully-developed young women by this time.
  • Young men, however, continue to grow for some time (height, weight, body hair, and muscle mass).
Cognitive Development
  • Intellectual development progresses. Communication skills are developed, and the teens are able to express themselves better.
  • One finally starts thinking about the future in a full-fledged manner.
  • Objective thinking capacity is fully-developed.
  • Self-analysis becomes a habit.
Social-Emotional Development
  • The sense of self-identity deepens, and the teen develops a sense of self-esteem.
  • Stability in emotions and interests is exhibited. The teen starts taking his relationships with the opposite sex seriously.
  • The teen is able to take independent decisions, and starts relying on himself rather than his parents or friends.
  • The teen loses the typical childhood trait of stubbornness, and is able to compromise on various issues.
  • The teen starts questioning his existence, about what role he is going to play in the world.
  • He identifies his sexual preferences, and is able to express love and concern for others.
  • The teen starts accepting the social institutions and traditions.
Hence, adolescence is defined by conflicting thoughts and emotions. One is dying to thrive on their own, and yet, wanting to fit in, under peer pressure. If a child displays a behavior deviant from the above-mentioned stages of development, he might be facing some behavioral problems. For the parents to cope in such a scenario, consulting a psychologist is highly recommended.
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