Adolescent development

This section explains what this developmental stage is all about and how it differs from childhood. It has long been recognised that this stage of development can be a stressful and difficult period. D. S. Hall in the early 1900's described the period of adolescence as being one of 'storm and stress'. The core tasks of adolescence are the development of identity and autonomy. The adolescent is finding out who they are as a person. This may involve them taking risks and departing from the values of the family unit. They are developing their independence and skills to help them in adulthood. Peers become more important in a young person's life and there will be a greater emphasis for them on these relationships compared with family relationships. 


The changes in adolescence mean not only that your child changes but that your parenting also needs to change, or adapt to them.  For example, many parents bemoan the fact that their teenager retreats to their room and does not interact like they used to.  This is a normal part of adolescent development.  Hassling your child and trying to force them to interact is probably not going to work and may cause relationship tension. 


Hormonal changes impact on mood and behaviour, particularly in teenage girls.  Emotions intensify and this developmental period has the highest rate of psychiatric disturbance. 

Suggestions for parenting an adolescent are:

  • Be supportive but not too controlling
  • Allow them to come to you with problems- don't be too intrusive and question them constantly about how they are feeling
  • Adjust your parenting style to their level of development
  • Allow them to experiment and try new things (as long as they are not harming themselves)
  • If they are withdrawing, try to find different ways of connecting with them. For example, instead of a whole family outing, perhaps the mother can take her daughter out to a movie or for coffee.
  • Have fair and reasonable boundaries that are agreed upon, especially around use of technology during the night, and safe use of the internet