Font Size
A
A
A

How Adolescent Thinking Develops


Topic Overview

Adolescents typically think in concrete ways, meaning they have difficulty with abstract and symbolic concepts. Their thinking tends to be focused on the present. They are just beginning to be able to gather information from experience, analyze information, and make critical decisions about future choices and consequences.

This stage of thinking should be taken into account when counseling adolescents. For example, when talking about smoking, it may be more effective to point out short-term consequences like bad breath or loss of athletic ability than long-term consequences such as cancer.

Age 11 to 14 years tends to be a self-centered period. Many adolescents are preoccupied with their own desires and needs and can be insensitive to others. Because they are so self-centered, they seem to believe other people are watching them. As a result, some teens may feel as if they are constantly "on stage" and are being judged by an imaginary audience. A teen who is affected by this imaginary audience may be self-conscious and concerned about appearance. For example, some teens may comb their hair endlessly, change their clothes often, and constantly look in the mirror to see how they look to others.

It is normal for adolescents to have a sense of being uniquely invincible, to have an "it will never happen to me" mind-set. This way of thinking may limit their ability to assess situations, risks, and future consequences. As a result, they may engage in risky behaviors and test authority.

Early adolescents gradually become more sophisticated in their thinking. Adolescents are also beginning to recognize the complexity of issues and that information can be interpreted in different ways. They learn flexibility, complex reasoning, inductive and deductive reasoning, sensitivity toward others, and problem solving. The ability to see other points of view sometimes can be unsettling for adolescents who may then question issues that they accepted at face value in the past. This can make some adolescents feel insecure or adrift. In times of stress, teens may revert to concrete, simplistic thinking.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last RevisedFebruary 1, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary