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Teens grow and develop at different rates. But general teen growth and development patterns can be grouped into four main categories.
- Physical development. By age 15, most teens have entered puberty. Most girls are close to their adult height and have completed the phase of rapid growth that precedes the first menstrual period. Boys often continue to grow taller and gain weight. The growth spurt in boys tends to start about 2 years after puberty begins and reaches its peak about 1½ years later. Also, gender characteristics continue to develop in both girls and boys.
- Cognitive development, which is the ability to think, learn, reason, and remember. Teens gradually develop the ability to think in more sophisticated, abstract ways. They begin to perceive issues in shades of gray instead of black and white, as they gain a better understanding of concepts like morality, consequence, objectivity, and empathy. Although they may understand that people can see the same issue in different ways, they often are convinced their personal view is the one that is most correct.
- Emotional and social development. Attempts to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “How do I fit in?” guide much of teens’ emotional and social development. This can be a painful process full of anxiety. In response, teens may behave unpredictably as emotions fluctuate seemingly at random. At times teens may seem mature. Other times, they may act as if they are still in elementary school, especially with parents and other close family members. Socially, teens form new friendships, often with members of the opposite sex.
- Sensory and motor development. After puberty, boys’ strength and agility naturally continues to develop, while that of teen girls tends to level out. Both girls and boys can increase strength, coordination, and athletic skill through regular physical activity.
Growth and development does not always occur evenly among different categories. For example, your teen may have a tremendous growth spurt and look almost like an adult but may seem socially and emotionally young for his or her age. Eventually, most teens mature in all areas of growth and development, especially if given the right tools and parental guidance.