Campaign for America's Kids
Adolescent Development Part 1

No. 57; December 2015

Middle School and Early High School Years
Parents are often worried or confused by changes in their teenagers. The following information should help parents understand this phase of development. Each teenager is an individual with a unique personality and special interests, likes, and dislikes. However, there are also numerous developmental issues that everyone faces during the adolescent years. The normal feelings and behaviors of the middle school and early high school adolescent are described below. The brain continues to develop throughout adolescence with the potential for positive changes.

Movement Towards Independence

  • Struggle with sense of identity
  • Feeling awkward or strange about one's self and one's body
  • Often an increased focus on self, alternating between high expectations and poor self-esteem
  • Interests and clothing style influenced by peer group
  • Moodiness
  • Improved ability to use speech to express one's self
  • Realization that parents are not perfect; identification of their faults
  • Less overt affection shown to parents, with occasional rudeness
  • Complaints that parents interfere with independence
  • Learning to drive and share family automobiles
  • Tendency to return to childish behavior, particularly when stressed
  • Resistance to following their parents’ belief system or cultural traditions, especially if these is different from what they see in their community.

Future Interests and Cognitive Changes

  • Mostly interested in present, with limited thoughts of the future
  • Intellectual interests expand and gain in importance
  • Greater ability to do work (physical, mental, emotional)

Sexuality

  • Display shyness, blushing, and modesty
  • Girls develop physically sooner than boys
  • Increased interest in sex; this can be with the opposite, the same sex, or either
  • Concerns regarding physical and sexual attractiveness to others
  • Frequently changing relationships
  • Worries about being normal

Morals, Values, and Self-Direction

  • Rule and limit testing
  • Capacity for abstract thought; beginning to understand the potential consequences of future behaviors
  • Development of ideals and selection of role models
  • Experimentation with sex and drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana)

Young teenagers do vary slightly from the above descriptions, but the feelings and behaviors are, in general, considered normal for each stage of adolescence.

See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins) / Your Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins)

Order Your Child from Harper Collins
Order Your Adolescent from Harper Collins


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