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Normal Development: Early Adolescence (12 to 14 Years Old)

Adolescence is divided into 3 stages: early (12 to 14 years), middle (15 to 17 years), and late (18 to 20 years). While certain attitudes, behaviors, and physical milestones tend to occur at certain ages, a wide spectrum of growth and behavior for each age is normal. Consequently, these guidelines are offered as a way of showing a general progression through the developmental stages rather than as fixed requirements. It is perfectly natural for a teen to attain some milestones earlier and other milestones later than the general trend.

Physical Development

  • May experience adolescent growth spurt (girls usually develop 2 years earlier than boys).
    • girls: changes in fat distribution, pubic hair, breast development; start of menstrual period
    • boys: testicular growth, voice changes, pubic hair, "wet dreams"
  • May try to experiment with body (masturbation).

Emotional Development

  • May have moody behavior.
  • Struggles with sense of identity.
  • Is sensitive and has a need for privacy.
  • Is anxious due to increased social and academic stresses.
  • Starts to look for loving relationships outside of family.
  • May become opinionated and challenge family rules and values.
  • May try to "show-off."

Social Development

  • Becomes increasingly self-sufficient.
  • Usually seeks out friends with beliefs and values similar to those of his or her family.
  • May be preoccupied by appearance.
  • Influenced by peers about clothes and interests.
  • May be influenced by peers to try risky behaviors (alcohol, tobacco, sex).

Mental Development

  • Mostly bases judgments on concrete rules of right and wrong, good or bad.
  • Thinks in terms of the present rather than the future.
  • May start to think abstractly and about complex issues.

If you have any concerns related to your teen's own pattern of development, check with your health care provider.

Developed by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2003-10-29
Last reviewed: 2006-04-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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