Social and Emotional Development in Teens Ages 13 to 18

In the five short years between the ages of 13 and 18, your teen will undergo tremendous social, emotional, and physical growth. This development may seem seamless to you, but there are distinct things happening in your teenager's social and emotional development that form your teen's identity.

Although every teen develops at a slightly different rate, there are some predictable milestones in development that most teens reach during high school. Here's what you should know about your growing teenager.

Most 13 year olds experience mood swings.
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Most 13-year-old teens are dealing with the emotional and physical changes that accompany puberty. It's normal for your teen to feel uncertain, moody, sensitive, and self-conscious at times. And during this time, it becomes more important than ever to fit in with peers.

Boys who physically mature the earliest may be more confident. But girls who mature earlier are often more self-conscious of their bodies.

It's important to talk to your teen about body image and how she feels about the changes she's experiencing.


teens taking selfies in the park
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For many 14-year-old teens, puberty has become old news. The new focus becomes earning new privileges.

By age 14, most teens experience less dramatic mood swings, but they often engage in more conflict with parents because they want more freedom than they can handle.


Students in a classroom
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Most 15-year-old teens continue to seek higher levels of independence. And quite often, they don't want to have to ask permission to do their own thing.

It can be difficult for parents to know how much responsibility a 15-year-old can realistically handle. Sometimes, you have to let them make their own mistakes and face the natural consequences of their behavior.


Teenager sitting in driver's seat
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The majority of 16-year-old teens are gaining comfort in their own skin. They've learned some valuable life lessons and they're feeling more prepared for the future.

Age 16 often allows for many new privileges, like a driver's license and a first job. Teens who are successful in handling these responsibilities become well-equipped for some of the realities of adulthood.

Many of them are very interested in romantic relationships at this age. While friends are still very important, they may want to spend more time with a boyfriend or girlfriend.


Group of teens jumping into a lake
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Most 17-year-old teens are better able regulate their emotions. They're less likely to lose their tempers and healthy teens know how to deal with uncomfortable feelings.

They form stronger relationships than in the past and are able to build strong bonds with friends—no more flitting back and forth between cliques. They begin to see their future and can feel both excited and apprehensive about it.


Teen blowing out candles on a graduation cake
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By age 18, many teens are feeling a combination of excitement and fear about the future. There are a lot of decisions about life after graduation and 18-year-olds invest a lot of time into thinking about what type of life they want once they're on their own.

Teens who have plenty of life skills often feel ready to move out of the home and begin the next chapter. But those who experience a lot of self-doubt may regress a bit as they think about entering the next phase of their lives.


What If Your Teen Seems Immature?

Be on the lookout for social and emotional problems or signs that your teen is lagging behind in development. If your teen seems immature, don't panic, however.

Take steps to teach new skills and provide extra support. With a little assistance, you can ensure your teen is prepared for the challenges of adult life.

If your teen's immaturity causes serious problems—like she gets peer pressured into making poor choices—seek professional help. Talk to your teen's doctor and have your teen assessed for emotional or behavioral problems or potential cognitive issues.