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Ages & Stages of Adolescent Development

A presentation I created sometime between 2000-2005 for training U.S. Army garrison staff on principles of youth development.

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Ages & Stages of Adolescent Development

  1. 1. Developmental Stages of Adolescence Bradd AndersonYouth Development Coordinator, 4-H/Army Youth Development Project University of Missouri State 4-H Youth Development Specialist
  2. 2. Questions• What was adolescence like for you?• What are the top dangers facing teens?• What is the public perception of teens?
  3. 3. Perceptions vs. RealityMost public information is based on outdated researchRESEARCH CONDUCTED DIFFERENCES FOUND IN PRIOR TO THE 1970’s MODERN RESEARCH- Conflict with parents seen - About 75% teens report as normal. positive family- Rebellion considered relationships. healthy & desirable. - Other ¼ had family- The literature focused on problems before parent survival. adolescence.- “Storm and Stress” - Correlation between paradigm emerged. adolescent mental health and close family relationships. - Challenged “Storm & Stress” perspective.
  4. 4. Perceptions vs. Reality The academic view of teens is not the view being sold to the public.Cuddly Infant Vs. Hateful, Spiteful Teen
  5. 5. Realities of Adolescence When we look at adolescence, we look at four different areas:PHYSICAL SOCIAL EMOTIONAL COGNITIVE
  6. 6. Physical Development• What physical changes take place as children become teenagers?• What are physical changes that you can see?• What physical changes can you not see?
  7. 7. Physical Development in Young TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersExperience rapid changes in Be willing to talk about physicalphysical appearance, with growth changes because new teens arespurt happening earlier for girls often uncomfortable with andthan boys. embarrassed by their changing bodies.Have intense sexual feelings and Provide honest information to thea keen interest in their own sexual questions they have.bodies. Prepare opportunities to help youth discuss body development as a natural, normal process. Listen to their fears without judging or trivializing.Interested in sports and active Encourage active, fun learninggames. experiences.Source: Missouri 4-H (
  8. 8. Physical Development in Teens Characteristics Implications for VolunteersMost have overcome the Avoid comments that criticize or awkwardness of puberty, but compare stature, size, or shape. some boys are still growing at a fast pace. Many are concerned with body image.
  9. 9. Social Development• What are some of the social characteristics that you observe in the teens you work with?• What changes as children become teens?
  10. 10. Social Development in Young TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersConcerned about social graces, Encourage learning experiencesgrooming, and being liked by related to self-discovery, self-peers. understanding, and getting along with others. Be patient with grooming behaviors that may seem excessive.Moving away from dependency Parents may need help inon parents to dependency on understanding that this shift is aopinions of peers. sign of growing maturity, not rejection of family.Becoming interested in activities Provide opportunities for boysthat involve boys and girls. and girls to mix without feeling uncomfortable — seems to work best if youth plan activities themselves
  11. 11. Social Development in TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersStrong desire for status in their Establish a climate that is conducive peer group. to peer support.Interested in coeducational Allow teens to plan coeducational activities. Dating increases. and group oriented projects or activities.Often want adult leadership roles. Provide opportunities for teens to plan their own programs.Want to belong to a group, but also Place emphasis on personal want to be recognized as unique development whenever possible. individuals.
  12. 12. Research Notes: Social Development• Different family members have different views of parent-adolescent conflict.• Adolescence has a minimal impact on the teen, but a potentially negative impact on the parent.• After a conflict, the teen moves on. The parent is more likely to hold on to negative feelings.• Who walks away upset and stays upset? – THE PARENT!!!• Generally few storms, but some stress.• “Arguing with a teenager is like being bitten to death by ducks!” -- Parent quote.
  13. 13. Emotional Development• What emotional characteristics do you see in teenagers?• Are there any physical or social factors that affect the emotions of teens?
  14. 14. Emotional Development in Young TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersCan be painfully self-conscious Plan many varied opportunities toand critical. Vulnerable to bouts achieve and have theirof low self-esteem. competence recognized by others. Concentrate on developing individual skills.Changes in hormones and Remember that early adolescentsthinking contribute to mood are known for their drama andswings. feelings that seem extreme to adults. Accept their feelings and be careful not to embarrass or criticize.Desire independence, yet need Encourage youth to work withtheir parents help. adults and older teens.
  15. 15. Emotional Development in TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersFeelings of inferiority and Encourage youth by helping theminadequacy are common. to see their positive self-worth.Gaining independence and Give teens responsibility anddeveloping firm individual expect them to follow through.identity. Provide opportunities that help teens explore their identity, values, and beliefs.
  16. 16. Research Notes: Emotional Development• Most adolescents make the transition without serious difficulty.• 40% of parents report an increase in stress during early adolescent transition.• Stressors are cumulative in impact.• “Crossing Paths”– When adolescence and midlife crisis happen at the same time in a family.• Bickering is usually about autonomy-related concerns.• Increased social support ~ decreases in the harmful impact of stressors.
  17. 17. Cycle of Behavior Parent Parenting Stress Behavior Teen Behavior
  18. 18. Cognitive Development• What kinds of intellectual changes do you see as children become adolescents?• How does their thinking change?• How do their mental abilities change?
  19. 19. Cognitive Development in Young TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersTend to reject solutions from Involve young teens in settingadults in favor of their own. rules and planning activities for your group or program.Beginning to think more Ask questions that encourageabstractly and hypothetically. Can predicting and problem solving.think about their own thinking Help youth to find solutions onand are becoming skilled in the their own by providinguse of logic and cause-and-effect. supervision without interference.Can take responsibility for Allow young teens to planplanning and evaluation of their activities and expect followown work. through. Help them to evaluate the outcome.
  20. 20. Cognitive Development in TeensCharacteristics Implications for VolunteersReach high levels of abstract Put youth into real life problem- thinking and problem solving. solving situations. Allow them to fully discover ideas, make decisions, and evaluate outcomes.Developing community Encourage civic projects that are consciousness and concern a service to others. for the well-being of others.Increasing self-knowledge; Allow time and plan activities for personal philosophy begins to youth to explore and express emerge. their own philosophies.Need life planning guidance as College visits, field trips to they are beginning to think businesses, and about leaving home for conversations with college college, employment, etc. students or working adults can be helpful activities.
  21. 21. Research Notes: Cognitive Development• McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass• Groups of children ages 10-18 and adults are shown a picture and asked to identify the emotion.• 100% adults answer correctly (“fear”).• Almost all teens are wrong (say “aggression”).• Most teens who do answer correctly are female.• Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is done to track which parts of the brain were active as the decision was being made.• Teens used the amygdala, while adults used the frontal cortex of their brains in making the decision.
  22. 22. Research Notes: Cognitive Development Frontal Cortex - Analysis - Decision-making - Judgment - Planning Amygdala - Gut reactions - Instincts - More primitive part of the brain.REF:
  23. 23. Research Notes: Cognitive Development• Implications – Teen brains are still maturing. – Communications pathways between lower and higher brain functions aren’t fully developed yet. – Teens more likely to react on instinct than process information. – Judgment and analytical skills are still developing: Teens are not “miniature adults.” – Teens cannot be expected to make adult decisions. – Teens may often not react the way we expect.
  25. 25. “But Why?”Using your knowledge of developmental stages to answer the questions of caring adults (and refute the public perceptions of teens!).
  26. 26. “But Why?”• “Sometimes my teen is a real know-it-all.”• Teens are developing new abilities to analyze, deduce, reason, and think abstractly. It’s normal for them to reject adult solutions in favor of their own. Involve them in making plans, when possible. Allow them to make decisions and help them to evaluate the outcomes.
  27. 27. “But Why?”• “My teenager is an emotional basket case! She spends a lot of time being moody and paranoid.”• Teens can be painfully self-conscious and critical. Self-esteem can be an issue and it’s common to feel inadequate or inferior. Be encouraging and patient. Help them see their worth!
  28. 28. “But Why?”• “My teen argues with me all the time, and I think it’s disrespectful. What can I do?”• Along with intellectual abilities, social skills are developing also. Allow them to find their own solutions, which may not be the same as yours. Then help them find ways to express themselves in ways that will not be perceived as disrespectful or abrasive.
  29. 29. “But Why?”• “My teen is so hung up on clothes, jewelry and how they look. What gives??”• Teens are emotionally vulnerable and have a real need for acceptance from their peers, and belonging to a group. Be patient, encourage experiences related to self-discovery and self- understanding. Set appropriate boundaries for clothing, etc.
  30. 30. “But Why?”• “My kid makes a lot of really dumb decisions, if you ask me. Sometimes it seems like we can hear the same thing but they interpret it in a totally wrong way.”• Listen to them and ask questions that encourage predicting and problem-solving. Help them find their own solutions, and be patient. Teen brains are “under construction,” and still building the connections that allow them to analyze and reason like adults. Keep the communication lines open!
  31. 31. “But Why?”• “My kid questions everything I say!”• Socially, teens move and become much more dependent on the opinions of their friends than their family. They are also developing intellectual abilities they’ve never had before, and are still learning how to use. Use two-way communication, respect their ideas and demand respect for your own. Ask questions that encourage predicting and problem-solving.
  32. 32. “But Why?”• “Okay, my kid is suddenly a walking hormone…what’s going on here?”• The surge of hormones is giving them intense feelings they’ve never dealt with before. Emotional vulnerability and the need for (peer) acceptance also affect the high interest in dating and forming close relationships. Give honest answers to their sexual questions. Hear their fears, and don’t judge or downplay them. Communicate!
  33. 33. “But Why?”• “We used to be best friends, but now my daughter just wants to spend all of her time with her friends.”• This is normal, as teenagers are more dependent on friends as their primary social unit. Keep talking and listening to your child. Understand that this is a sign of growing maturity, not of family rejection. Adolescence can be harder on the parents than the teens!
  34. 34. “But Why?”• “My freaky teenager is outgrowing his clothes every month!! Am I feeding him the wrong thing?”• Teens bodies change and grow rapidly, and the growth spurt starts even sooner for girls. This can be embarrassing to a teenager, so be sensitive about it. Also be willing to talk with them about the many physical changes taking place.
  35. 35. “But Why?”• “My 14-year old is always so defensive! No matter what I say, they think I’m accusing them of something.”• Dealing with all these new feelings and changes to their bodies is difficult for many teens. When they just want to “fit in” this can cause major stress and result in mood swings. Also remember that teens do not always interpret what they hear in the same way an adult does. Be sensitive, patient, and help them understand what you truly mean.

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A presentation I created sometime between 2000-2005 for training U.S. Army garrison staff on principles of youth development.


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