Early Adolescence

10-14 years

Learning about sexual feelings an romantic relationships

One of the biggest changes teens have to deal with is creating a sense of sexuality. This means developing a sexual orientation, dealing with new sexual feelings, and responding to how others view and react to their sexuality changes. They have to ask themselves what it means to be sexual, what to do and with whom. Teens figure out their sexuality by trying it out. They experiment by asking questions, changing their way of dressing, and acting on new physical sensations.

They also have to develop skills for romantic relationships. How to attract a partner, manage and get out of relationships. Their relationships change frequently and there is a lot of drama in it. We have to remember that they are developing new skills, their brain is more emotional and it’s all new.

Adjust to a new physical sense of self

Young adolescents experience fast and deep physical changes caused by hormones acting on different parts of their body.

This is what you will see:

  • Fast physical growth and body changes (including sexual maturation).
  • Uneven growth of bones, muscles, and organs can result in awkward appearance.
  • Often tired.
  • Intense concern with body image given their physical changes; may be self-conscious about growth.
  • Peers are often used as standard for normal.
  • Worries about being normal.

Brain Development

Brain development is top discussion these days. That’s because there’s lot of change in the teen brain starting at puberty. The brain grows. There are more brain cells (neurons) and they connect better, they transfer information quicker and more efficiently. The growth is in all areas of the brain, so the communication across the brain improves. The brain is like a muscle, the areas that get used grow stronger, and the ones that don’t get used disappear. This growth happens for quite a while. It is not complete until somewhere in ages 25 -30.

Something important to point out is that this increase of communication across the brain provides the foundation for the development of the “higher level executive functioning” skills. What’s an executive function skill and why is it important for teens?  

Planning ahead. Strategizing. Organizing. Logical reasoning. Weighing risks and rewards. Making judgments. Making decisions. Working memory. Regulating moods. Managing impulses.

Teens are often drawn to emotional intensity (thrills, excitement, adventures, risk-taking) – activities like snowboarding off a roof! This can bring with it: RISKIER BEHAVIORS. Young people do understand the risk of these behaviors (research has shown this) but they often assess risks and benefits differently than adults.

  • What’s top for early adolescents? Fitting in, feeling normal with normal being their friends. Having fun.
  • They analyze the risks and benefits of behaviors differently than we do and assess their personal level of risk. Think about drinking at a party. What are the positive and negative consequences from adult and teen perspective?
Adults Teens
Fitting in Not very important Really important
Having fun Can have fun other ways Really important to have fun like my friends do.
Getting pregnant, crashing a car, losing place on sports team Big issue, life changing, AVOID AT ALL COSTS Not good but it didn’t happen to me last time (last 5 times) I drank, so I must be immune.

Add to all of this that teens are often inconsistent in planning & reasoning (those are skills they are learning). Also, teens are learning how to CONTROL EMOTIONS: Think of the teen who spews verbal emotional venom at you and then can’t tell you why. Along with emotions are 2 related signs: Being impulsive and focused on self (we’ve heard that before!) – This self-focus makes it hard for them to think about the effects of their behavior on other people. They look like they’re selfish and rude. But thinking of others requires insight, and insight requires a fully developed brain (still working on that one)

Just to be clear about brain development, it’s not about teens being unable to control their emotions and always making bad decisions, impulsive, self-focused. Instead, teens can control emotions, impulses, behaviors but just not routinely, consistently. They are still learning, and they really need PRACTICE!

Brain Development

Brain development is top discussion these days. That’s because there’s lot of change in the teen brain starting at puberty. The brain grows. There are more brain cells (neurons) and they connect better, they transfer information quicker and more efficiently. The growth is in all areas of the brain, so the communication across the brain improves. The brain is like a muscle, the areas that get used grow stronger, and the ones that don’t get used disappear. This growth happens for quite a while. It is not complete until somewhere in ages 25 -30.

Something important to point out is that this increase of communication across the brain provides the foundation for the development of the “higher level executive functioning” skills. What’s an executive function skill and why is it important for teens?  

Planning ahead. Strategizing. Organizing. Logical reasoning. Weighing risks and rewards. Making judgments. Making decisions. Working memory. Regulating moods. Managing impulses.

Teens are often drawn to emotional intensity (thrills, excitement, adventures, risk-taking) – activities like snowboarding off a roof! This can bring with it: RISKIER BEHAVIORS. Young people do understand the risk of these behaviors (research has shown this) but they often assess risks and benefits differently than adults.

  • What’s top for early adolescents? Fitting in, feeling normal with normal being their friends. Having fun.
  • They analyze the risks and benefits of behaviors differently than we do and assess their personal level of risk. Think about drinking at a party. What are the positive and negative consequences from adult and teen perspective?
Adults Teens
Fitting in Not very important Really important
Having fun Can have fun other ways Really important to have fun like my friends do.
Getting pregnant, crashing a car, losing place on sports team Big issue, life changing, AVOID AT ALL COSTS Not good but it didn’t happen to me last time (last 5 times) I drank, so I must be immune.

Add to all of this that teens are often inconsistent in planning & reasoning (those are skills they are learning). Also, teens are learning how to CONTROL EMOTIONS: Think of the teen who spews verbal emotional venom at you and then can’t tell you why. Along with emotions are 2 related signs: Being impulsive and focused on self (we’ve heard that before!) – This self-focus makes it hard for them to think about the effects of their behavior on other people. They look like they’re selfish and rude. But thinking of others requires insight, and insight requires a fully developed brain (still working on that one)

Just to be clear about brain development, it’s not about teens being unable to control their emotions and always making bad decisions, impulsive, self-focused. Instead, teens can control emotions, impulses, behaviors but just not routinely, consistently. They are still learning, and they really need PRACTICE!

Males

$ 99

Per Month
  • Physical growth spurt begins 1-2 years after girls and accelerates more slowly.
  • Continue to grow for about 6 years after 1st visible changes of puberty.
  • Physical development continues 3-4 years after most girls; may not finish until age 21.

Females

$ 99

Per Month
  • Begin the process of physical growth and puberty about 1-2 years earlier than boys.
  • Attain adult height and reproductive maturity about 4 years after the 1st physical changes of puberty appear.

Both

$ 99

Per Month
  • Girls and boys are both entering puberty at earlier ages than ever.
  • There is a wide range of normal.
  • Physical maturation has little correlation with cognitive development (e.g. youth that look physically older do not necessarily have higher levels of cognitive ability).

Coming of Age

Adopt a Personal Value System

With identity development and abstract thinking, teens really get into figuring out meaning – knowing the “whys” of life and not just the “hows”. Teens take out all the values they grew up with, try them on, turn them around, question them, see what fits, what makes sense, what they want to keep, and what they want to get rid of. During early adolescence everything is new. They begin to question everything and try out different value systems.

Develop Stable and Productive Peer Relationships

Peer relationships change during adolescence to provide youth with more support and connections as they spend less time with adults and in supervised activity. Peer relationships often compete with parents and schools in influence on teen’s attitudes and behaviors. As networks with peers broaden, peer relationships become deeper and play an increasing role in shaping an individual teen’s self-concept and interaction. Adolescents experience three transformations in peer relationships:

  1. Reorientation of friendships from activity based relationships of childhood to more stable, affectively oriented friendships based on idea and value sharing.
  2. Growth of romantic and sexually oriented relationships.
  3. Emergence of peer “crowds.”

Throughout adolescence, friendships become more stable, intimate and supportive; they provide a cornerstone for learning about adult relationships.

  • Increasing influence and connection to peers.
  • Youth begin to choose friendships based on affective characteristics (loyalty, trust, willingness to share confidences) rather than shared interests and activities.
  • Same-sex friends and group activities.
  • Beginning tendency for youth to label or group peers (e.g. cliques).
  • Fear of rejection.

Define a Personal Sense of Identity

Adolescents move from identifying themselves as an extension of their parents (childhood) to recognizing their uniqueness and separation from parents. They develop a sense of self as an individual and as a person connected to valuable people and groups.

They refine their sense of identity around issues such as gender, physical attributes, sexuality, ethnicity. They explore issues such as Who am I? How do I fit in? Am I loveable and loving? How am I competent?

One result of this is experimentation with different, temporary “identities” by means of alternative styles of dress, jewelry, music, hair, manner, and lifestyle. Teens may struggle to identify a true self amid seeming contradictions in the way they feel and behave in different situations, and with different levels of thought and understanding.

Renegotiate Relationship with Parents/Caregivers

Adolescents negotiate a change in relationship with parents that begins to balance autonomy (independence) with connection. Overall, the adolescent’s task is one of separating in some ways, while maintaining and redefining connections in others, in order to make room for a more adult relationship that meets cultural expectations and provides necessary support.

  • Argumentative — often challenge parents.
  • Youth still tend to be closely attached to parental figures.
  • Parents commonly make most decisions affecting their early teen; youth become more involved in these decisions as they get older.
  • Parents’ listening skills become increasingly important.

Meet Demands of Increasing Mature Roles and Responsibilities

Adolescents gradually take on the roles expected of them in adulthood. They learn the skills necessary for these roles and manage the multiple demands of the labor market as well as meet expectations regarding commitment to family, community and citizenship.

  • Mostly interested in the present and near future.
  • Vocational goals change frequently.