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Emotional and Social Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years

Topic Overview

Older teens may seem mature at times, but they often will still have periods of childish behavior. Those who have not yet established a personal identity and sense of independence may try defining themselves through rebellious or difficult behavior. Teens learn about themselves through expanding their relationships beyond close same-sex friendships and through finding out about different world views and lifestyles.

It is normal for teens to experiment with or focus a lot on clothing, hair, jewelry, tattoos, piercings, political viewpoints, or speech. While parents often wonder if their teenagers are vain, this behavior is a way to "practice" and evaluate how they appear to others and to help define who they are. Usually teens outgrow it as they mature.

Teens become more comfortable with their own identity in the later teen years, and their peers become less important. Teens begin to spend time in groups of boys and girls and also go out on one-on-one dates. They may form strong bonds with adult mentors or younger children. Teens learn about themselves through these relationships.

In a natural step from childhood to adulthood, teens begin to seek intimate relationships, which become an important part of their identity. Some teens' emotional investment in such relationships is immense, which makes them vulnerable. Parents can help by recognizing when relationships are getting more intense and by talking openly, without judgment, about the possible future effects.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised April 6, 2012

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