Psychological Development in Puberty

Puberty is a catalyst for many changes in a teenager’s psychological development. As the transition between childhood and adulthood occurs, teens may display adult-level maturity at times while reverting to child-like actions in other situations. The labile moods and behaviors of adolescents stem from several causes, including brain growth and hormones. Further, during adolescence, teens are particularly susceptible to peer pressure, which can lead them to make poor choices.

Need for Independence

One of the hallmarks of psychological development during puberty is an adolescent’s desire for increased independence. This need for independence can manifest itself through rebellious behavior, such as skipping school or breaking curfew. Although inappropriate, this type of behavior is usually developmentally normal and reflects a teenager’s desire to explore the boundaries of rules and social expectations in preparation for adulthood and independent living. Additionally, as part of the transition toward adulthood, adolescents often place more emphasis on their peer group than on the family system. This is yet another way of exploring independence.

Identity Instability

During puberty, it is common for teenagers to have an unstable sense of self, explains the American Psychological Association 2. A teenager’s interests, values and definition of self may change from week to week, depending on his peer group and social influences. Further, during this time, adolescents might question their sexual identity as well as experience uncertainty about where they fit within their peer group, family and society as a whole. These identity disturbances generally stabilize by the time an adolescent reaches his 20s.

Unstable Emotions

The pressures of school, peer relationships and family relationships, along with changing hormones, often lead adolescents to display strong and rapidly changing emotions. It is developmentally common for a teenager to feel confident and happy one day and depressed and anxious the next. In young adolescents, this emotional instability can be particularly pronounced, especially during times of stress. Even though rapidly changing moods are a hallmark of adolescents, if your teen’s unstable emotions negatively affect her ability to function at home or school, this could be the sign of a more serious mental health condition that may require professional intervention.

Self-Focused Behavior

The Association for Middle Level Education explains that adolescents often display self-centered behavior 1. When making choices, teens frequently consider their own needs first or fail to consider how their behaviors will affect others. A teenager might not consider that her parents worry about her if she does not call them when she will be late arriving home from school. As with other adolescent behaviors, these self-centered attitudes generally stabilize by the late teenage years.

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