Middle Adolescence

15-17 years

Adjust to physical changes

A little bit less evident than early adolescence, adolescents keep experiencing physical changes caused by hormones acting on different parts of their body.

This is what you will see in your teen:

  • Ongoing physical and sexual changes.
  • Worry about their appearance and body.
  • They often feel strange about their self and their body.
  • Sometimes they will do a lot of activity and some other they will be completely tired.
  • During growth spurts they will be hungry all the time.
  • They need to sleep much more than before.

Adjust to a sexually maturing body and feelings

During early adolescence teens start the process of creating a sense of sexuality. During their middle adolescence, they keep doing it, and they start to adjust to their new body and feelings.

Some characteristics of this age are:

  • Sexual drives begin.
  • Exploration of their ability to date and attract a partner.
  • Concerns about being sexually attractive.
  • Frequent changes in relationships.
  • Feelings of love and passion.

Develop and Apply Abstract Thinking Skills

During middle adolescence teens are increasingly able to:

  1. Understand and grapple with things that cannot be seen, heard, or touched. Topics such as faith, love, trust, beliefs, peace, racism, as well as higher mathematics.
  2. Think about possibilities – thinking about multiple options and possibilities (the age-old “what if…?” questions).
  3. Think ahead.
  4. Think about thinking –the ability to understand another person’s perspective.

Youth evolve from:

  1. There’s only 1 perspective – mine (concrete thinker/early abstract thinker).
  2. There are 2 perspectives – mine and yours, but I can only think about 1 at a time (some skills in abstract thought).
  3. There are multiple perspectives and I can think about all of them (full abstract thought).

During middle adolescence the focus is on refinement and testing. Abstract thinking is at full force – the world is at their feet because they can think of almost anything in so many ways (imagine what this feels like!). They understand “cause and effect” better (if I do this, then this will happen). They see things as relative rather than absolute. Think in the long term, but often make choices and decisions based on urgency and impulsivity. Under stress they still revert to concrete thought. Don’t yet have a framework to figure what to do with all these new perspectives, so they need to practice! The best way to help them is to debate and argument.

Remember: physical development and ability to think abstractly are often not in sync with each other. Adults often get mixed up on this point.

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!

Some ways to help youth exercise their brain are:

  • Ask questions
  • Ask their opinions – why do they believe what they do?
  • Help them think things through
  • Get involved in activities that interest them
  • Work with them to address issues in our community

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!

Some ways to help youth exercise their brain are:

  • Ask questions
  • Ask their opinions – why do they believe what they do?
  • Help them think things through
  • Get involved in activities that interest them
  • Work with them to address issues in our community

Males

$ 99

Per Month
  • Start their physical growth spurt 1 or 2 years after girls and is slower.
  • They continue to grow for about 6 years after starting with the first puberty changes.
  • Their physical development keeps going 3 to 4 years after most girls; may not finish until turning 21.

Females

$ 99

Per Month
  • Start their physical growth and puberty about 1 to 2 years before boys do.
  • They reach their adult height and reproductive maturity about 4 years after the first puberty changes appear.

Both

$ 99

Per Month
  • Girls and boys are both starting to develop at earlier ages than ever.
  • Since some teens start developing very early and other very late, there is a wide range of normality.
  • Physical, emotional and thinking development are often not in sync with each other.

Coming of Age

Adopt a Personal Value System

Adolescents develop a more complex understanding of moral behavior and underlying principles of justice. They question and assess beliefs from childhood and restructure these beliefs into a personal ideology (e.g. more personally meaningful values, religious views, and belief systems to guide decisions and behavior).

  • Development of ideals and selection of role models.
  • Interest in moral reasoning.
  • Increasingly able to take the perspective of others into account with their own perspective.
  • In addition to concern about gaining social approval, morals begin to be based on respect for the social order and agreements between people: “law and order” morality.
  • Begins to question social conventions and re-examine personal values and moral/ethical principles, sometimes resulting in conflicts with parents.

Develop Healthy Peer Relationships

Peers play an increasingly important role in the lives of youth during adolescence. In many ways, these friendships are an essential component of development.

What changes?

  1. Teens spend more time with their peers – and with less adult supervision.
  2. Friendships change – MORE complex, exclusive, and intimate.
  3. Often, they have multiple friends, and belong to multiple groups.
  4. Peer “crowds” and cliques (groups or networks of teens) start to appear. They’re all about identity, fitting in, and social connections.
  5. They start having romantic relationships.
  6. Peers have a stronger influence on self-concept. Risk taking is more likely to occur in the presence of peers (as compared to adults). Teens tend to choose friends and peers who are similar to themselves.

During middle adolescence specifically peer relationships broaden.  Teen do more activities with peers outside of the group and across groups. They also more tolerant of differences in appearance, beliefs, and feelings. Why does peer relationships matter?

It helps teens to:

  • Develop their identity: “who am I”
  • Practice social skills, try out new beliefs, roles and behaviors.
  • Find acceptance, sense of belonging.
  • Have fun, excitement.

Youth with close and supportive peer relationships tend to be:

  • More socially competent.
  • Better sense of self-worth.
  • Emotionally healthier.
  • More motivated and active in school.
  • Less involved in behavioral problems.

The quality of peer relationships in childhood and adolescence may be one of the most important indicators of future psychological health. Actually, teens who are socially isolated or lack good social skills are at risk.

What do teens need to develop healthy relationships as adults?

  • Opportunities to develop relationship with peers.
  • Adults to think through these relationships.
  • Boundaries within which to bump into as they navigate.

Renegotiate Relationship with Parents/Caregivers

Teens change their relationship with their parents. When they were children, parents managed their lives, they were in charged. During adolescence, parents need to guide them and support them, as coaches.

  • During early and middle adolescence teens are still likely to be closely attached to their parents, but they start pushing at the boundaries.
  • Teens are embarrassed by parents.
  • Argumentative – often teens challenge parents.
  • Parent-adolescent conflict could increase. Then, parents’ listening skills become increasingly important.

Define a Personal Sense of Identity

Figuring out your identity occurs throughout life – but really kicks in during adolescence. When we are children, our identity is tied to adults around us. But during adolescence is the first time we think about how identity may affect our life. Teens need to ask themselves:

  • Who am I?
  • Am I normal?
  • How or where do I fit in?
  • Am I lovable and loving?
  • What am I good at (my strengths)?
  • What do others think about who I am?
  • WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN FOR ME?

The sense of identity is influenced by relationships with adults, but increasingly by peers. Teens try on “new hats” or new faces until finding the one that fits them better.

Older teens usually have a firmer sense of identity, but they go deeper especially as they explore their sense of self in relation to personal relationships, education, work, family, future.

Remember this is “Age of Feeling In-Between.”  This has an impact on their sense of identity – they see themselves as neither an adolescent nor an adult.

Meet Demands of Increasing Mature Roles and Responsibilities

Adolescents gradually take on new roles and responsibilities and learn the skills needed to be successful. Some examples of these changes are:

    1. Jobs – learn how to work in the work world
    2. Lifelong learner – learn how manage learning both inside and out of schools.
    3. Citizen – what it means to be a citizen, what the larger society is all about.

During early and middle adolescence teens know they want to do in their future, but their ideas are all over the place. Their vocational goals change frequently. They usually are more focused on basic needs, not on their vocational future. During this time they need to learn the skills, expectations, etc. of the work world.