Teen: Child Development (12-17 Years Old)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

If there is ever a time for parental self-doubt and second-guessing, the teenage years are that period. Efforts to provide guidance and insight are commonly rejected. Attempts at dialogue and discussion are dismissed with either rolling of the eyes or monosyllabic grunts of acknowledgement. Even the ability to physically intimidate wanes rapidly as many a growth spurt rockets the adolescent upward in stature past his/her parents. And yet, perhaps similar to a young toddler, it is at this time that children need more support and supervision, since like the 2-year-old, a strong ego coupled with an impulsive nature can be a volatile combination.

What are milestones in academic development for teens 12-17 years of age?

The high school years are a time of development and maturation. Children are developing the skills necessary for college or the general work force. As the 11th and 12th grades are nearing completion, the teen should be comfortable making oral presentations. The ability to absorb and analyze information and then synthesize and present persuasively either a supporting position or offer a counter argument is crucial to survival in the adult world. Eye-to-eye contact and the ability to read the audience instead of talking into a handheld stack of 3 x 5 cards is a difficult, yet important, capability.

In order to successfully master this art of persuasion, it is beneficial for the student to have an exposure to a broad array of literary forms -- poetry, fiction, autobiography, etc. As a result of this exposure, teenagers broaden their vocabulary skills and improve their presentation styles, using the simile and metaphor more broadly to express their ideas. The ability to efficiently and effectively research reference works, either in the traditional technique of library study or via online sources, is critical.

In addition to effective oral presentations, mastering the art of written argument is equally important. Proper use of syntax, vocabulary, and varying literary style to entice the reader are all-important skills that should be mastered. The successful adolescent will learn the mechanics of revising and editing a draft in order to produce a final copy.

What are milestones in psychological and emotional development for teens 12-17 years of age?

A formal analysis of the budding adolescent psychological and emotional maturation process is academically very impressive. During a few short years, the teen develops the ability to reason abstractly and formulate and consider multiple hypotheses, all in the realm of a thought process that is less concrete, enabling the teen to see the grays and not just view the world in terms of black and white. The classroom captures these traits by study of more conceptual and logical math skills (algebra and geometry) and expository written compositions ("compare and contrast").

A major goal of the adolescent years is the development of autonomy and independence from parents. The establishment of a personal identity (but always within the safety net of their peer group) is paramount. Unfortunately, the notorious sense of invincibility and immortality characteristic of this age group promotes high-risk behaviors. The vulnerability to peer pressure, often unstable emotions, and a frequently overly romanticized view of their world only amplify many a parent's anxiety level.

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