Social and Emotional Development in Teens Ages 13 - 18

Developmental Social and Emotional Milestones for Teenagers

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.

While these changes don't follow a timeline to the date of your teen's birthday - your 14-year-old may still act like a 13-year-old socially - there are some predictable patterns to a teen's development. Here's what you should know about your growing teenager:

13-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

Most 13 year olds experience mood swings.
Vicky Kasala/The Image Bank/Getty Images

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 become more important than ever to fit in with peers. 

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14-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

Many 14-year-old teens want increased independence.
14-year-old teens are generally happy and easy-going. natalie419 on flickr

For may 14-year-old teens, puberty has become old news. The new focus becomes gaining new privileges. Often, there are fewer mood swings, but sometimes, there can be more conflict as many teens want more freedom than they can handle

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15-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

social emotional development fifteen year old teen boy
Photo cassandrajowett on flickr.

Most 15-year-old teens push their parents to to be able to do more on their own. Quite often, they don't want to have to ask permission to do it.

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.

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16-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

Most 16-year-olds are interested in romantic relationships.
Photo goodncrazy on flickr.

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.

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.

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17-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

Most 17-year-olds have better emotional control.
Seventeen-year-old teens tend to be easy going. Getty Images

Most 17-year-old teens are equipped to 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. 

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18-Year-Old Teen Social and Emotional Development

By age 18, most teens are looking forward to the future.
Getty Images

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 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.

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When Social and Emotional Development Isn't Normal

Make sure your teens social and emotional development is on track.
Getty Images/SW Productions

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. 

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.

Updated by Amy Morin, LCSW.

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