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Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years


Topic Overview

How do teenagers grow and develop during ages 15 to 18?

The ages from 15 to 18 are an exciting time of life. But these years can be challenging for teens and their parents. Emotions can change quickly as teens learn to deal with school, their friends, and adult expectations. Teen self-esteem is affected by success in sports, school, and friendships. Teens tend to compare themselves with others, and they might form false ideas about their body image. The influence of TV, magazines, and the Internet can add to a teen's poor body image.

For parents, the teen years are a time to get to know their teenager. While teens are maturing, they still need a parent's love and guidance. Most do just fine as they face the challenges of being a teen. But it is still important for teens to have good support from their parents so that they can get through these years with as few problems as possible.

There are four basic areas of teenage development:

  • Physical development. Most teens enter puberty by age 15. Girls go through a time of rapid growth right before their first menstrual period. And by age 15, girls are near their adult height. Boys usually continue to grow taller and gain weight through their teen years.
  • Cognitive development. As they mature, teens are more able to think about and understand abstract ideas such as morality. They also begin to understand other people better. Even though they have a certain amount of empathy and can understand that others have different ideas, they often strongly believe that their own ideas are the most true.
  • Emotional and social development. Much of teens' emotional and social growth is about finding their place in the world. They are trying to figure out "Who am I?" and "How do I fit in?" So it is normal for their emotions to change from day to day.
  • Sensory and motor development. Boys continue to get stronger and more agile even after puberty. Girls tend to level out. Getting plenty of exercise helps improve strength and coordination in boys and girls.

When are routine medical visits needed?

Teenagers should see their doctor for a routine checkup each year. The doctor will ask your teen questions about his or her life and activities. This helps the doctor check on your teen's mental and physical health. It's a good idea to give your teen some time alone with the doctor during these visits to talk in private. Your teen will also get the shots (immunizations) that are needed at each checkup.

Teens should also see the dentist each year.

When should you call your doctor?

Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your teen's physical or emotional health, such as:

  • Delayed growth.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Body image problems.
  • Behavior changes.
  • Skipping school or other problems with school.
  • Alcohol and drug use.

Also call your doctor if you notice changes in your teen's friendships or relationships or if you need help talking with your teen.

How can you help your teenager during these years?

Even though teens don't always welcome your help, they still need it. Your being available and involved in your teen's life can help your teen avoid risky behavior. It also helps your teen grow and develop into a healthy adult. Here are some things you can do:

  • Encourage your teen to get enough sleep.
  • Talk about body image and self worth.
  • Encourage your teen to eat healthy foods and be active.
  • Talk with your teen about drugs and alcohol.
  • Be ready to address your teen's concerns and problems.
  • Involve your teen in setting household rules and schedules.
  • Continue talking to your teen about dating and sex.
  • Encourage community involvement (volunteering).
  • Set rules about Internet use.

Teens really want to know that they can talk honestly and openly with you about their feelings and actions. It is very important for teens to know that you love them no matter what.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about teen growth and development:

Developmental areas:

Seeing a doctor:

Ongoing concerns:

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