Characteristics of Social Development in Early Adolescents

Eleven- to 14-year-olds fall into the category of early adolescence. It's an exhilarating time to be sure as your child begins the process of becoming an adult. Part of getting older involves the growing desire for independence and opting to spend more time friends than family. Parents may have been the primary sounding board during the elementary school years, but kids in early adolescence may choose to turn to their friends for an opinion or advice, notes WebMD. Although parents may understandably feel cast aside, family continues to be an important source of support for the increasingly social middle-school-aged child.

Switching Gears

By early adolescence a child's desire for strong family ties and wanting nothing more than to please her parents seem to have gone the way of the Disney character lunch boxes. Preteens and young teens generally develop close friendships with members of the same sex. Young adolescents may feel so incredibly close to certain friends that they may seriously ponder the notion that they might be gay or lesbian.


Independence and creating a unique identity goes hand in hand. Wearing the same type of clothing as their friends, signing up for sports or other extracurricular activities, going shopping or playing video games helps a young adolescent develop a sense of self as he discovers his likes and dislikes. Spending more time with peers means young adolescents are logging few hours with their parents. Even though hanging out with kids of the same age is a natural part of social and emotional development in early adolescents, some parents take the rejection to heart. Establishing himself as a one-of-a-kind person may prompt a young adolescent to go out of his way not to be like his parents.Trying to hang on to days gone by may cause your young adolescent to seek out even more freedom.

Selecting Friends

Keep an eye on who your young adolescent is befriending. Middle-school kids are usually attracted to friends who have similar interests or personalities. Some 11- to 14-year-olds may not always use the best judgment when making new friends. Choosing a friend who couldn't care less about school can rub off on your child, and her grades may suffer as a result, points out the U.S. Department of Education. Friends who say no to drugs and alcohol set a good example for an impressionable adolescent.

Fibbing to Fit In

Acceptance is the name of the social game in early adolescence. Being "chosen" to be part of a peer group can give a middle-school-age child's self-esteem a major shot in the arm -- at least for a time. Some young adolescents may think that who they really are isn't good enough. They may feel the only way to attract and keep friends is to act like the group rather than be true to his innate personality. The sometimes overpowering urge to conform to a peer group's expectations peaks between ages 12 and15.