Cognitive Development in Adolescence

group of teens

The foundation of cognitive development in adolescence is the ability to think, reason, and make choices. Children begin the process of learning from the moment they are born. The ability for teens to think, reason, and make good choices is built on the levels of development they have formed up to this point. During adolescence, the processes get much more complex.

More About Cognitive Development in Adolescence

Adolescence is the time when teens learn to use concrete skills to develop more complex or critical thinking skills. Children from the age of 12 to 18 must take what they have learned in early childhood and figure out how to apply it to real life situations. Adolescents must learn to reason, understand cause and effect, and relate actions and choices with responsibility.

Early Adolescence

Children begin their teen years discovering their own personalities. Up until this point, many decisions have been made by parents, often with little or limited input from the child. During early adolescence, children are being allowed to use their thinking skills to make up their own minds about things. Examples of choices that the early adolescent can successfully make include:

  • What sport to play?
  • Which groups of friends to join?
  • How they want to dress and what hairstyle they prefer?
  • What parental rules they feel should be changed and the reason behind their feelings?

Sometimes the views of the early adolescent are in direct opposition to the adult who cares for them and teen conflicts start brewing. Understanding this level of cognitive development in early adolescence allows for compromise on certain issues.

Middle Adolescence

Middle adolescence can be trying for both the teen and the parent. This is the time when cognitive development is broadening and the teen thinks in more futuristic terms. Complex thinking skills are used to focus on how a teen views the world around him and where he fits into the picture. Examples of middle adolescent cognitive thinking include:

  • Questioning and analyzing politics, sexual orientation, and career goals
  • Developing personal code of ethics or moral standards
  • Thinking more about life in the long term, visualizing past tomorrow
  • Begins systematically making and influencing relationships
  • Begins asking about what they want to be or who they really are

Late Adolescence

During late adolescence, the complex thinking skills which have been developed are now used to focus on more global thoughts. The teen becomes less self-centered and more mature, looking at what his role is in the community. A teen now must figure out what kind of adult he will be and how he will fit into the adult world. Examples of critical thinking in late adolescence include:

  • Career decisions and college choices
  • Healthy living choices
  • Idealistic views versus reality
  • Developing personal views and intolerance for opposite opinions.
  • Weighing parental Input

Parents and adult caregivers can help the cognitive development of their adolescent by encouraging open communication. Allowing teens to express opinions and to learn to listen and accept opposite views will assist the teen in forming mature thinking patterns. Sometimes a simple nod will offer the encouragement teens need during this self-discovery period to increase their ability to practice critical thinking.

Parents who demonstrate examples of healthy living and are able to show their teens how to think through difficult situations help the adolescent establish strong cognitive development milestones. The process of cognitive development in adolescence can be an emotional roller coaster but with parental guidance and good role modeling, your teen will develop into a mature and clear thinking adult capable of making appropriate choices for a productive life. Enjoy this time together as your adolescent blossoms into the adult he/she was designed to become.

Cognitive Development in Adolescence