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Moral, Social, Intellectual and Emotional Development


Teenage Development - A Student's Report

Reham Shaheen is one of our psychology students, studying a Diploma in Psychology and Counselling.  She has written a very good answer here on development in teenagers as part of the Adolescent Psychology module. Well done Reham!

"There are some definitions we have to start with in order to understand the development of this stage such as:

Puberty: it is the time in which a child’s sexual and physical characteristics starts to mature due to hormonal changes.

Adolescence: it is the transitional stage (physically and psychologically) between puberty and adulthood. The word came from the Latin word adolescence which means to grow up.

It wasn’t until 1904 that the first president of the American Psychological Association, G. Stanley Hall, was credited with discovering adolescence. In his study entitled "Adolescence," he described this new developmental phase that came about due to social changes at the turn of the 20th century. Because of the influence of Child Labor Laws and universal education, youth had newfound time in their teenage years when the responsibilities of adulthood were not forced upon them as quickly as in the past. Hall did not have a very positive view of this phase, and he believed that society needed to “burn out the vestiges of evil in their nature”.

Reference from the American psychological association website.

Other work appearing in the late 1950s through the 1970s in Europe and America helped adolescence emerge as a field of study (important earlier work by Freud, Piaget, Maslow, and Kohlberg also addressed stages of development). Erikson described the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. Erikson looked at life in eight stages.

Puberty isn't the only marker of adolescence. There's a slowly increasing capacity for abstract reasoning and relative thinking.

I searched some interesting characteristics about adolescence in different developmental areas such as:

Intellectual development

  • Are intensely curious and have a wide range of intellectual pursuits, few of which are sustained
  • Prefer active over passive learning experiences
  • Prefer interaction with peers during learning activities
  • Have a strong need for approval and may be easily discouraged
  • Develop an increasingly better understanding of personal abilities
  • Are inquisitive about adults, often challenging their authority, and always observing them
  • May show disinterest in conventional academic subjects but are intellectually curious about the world and themselves
  • Are developing a capacity to understand higher levels of humor

    Moral development

  • Are generally idealistic, desiring to make the world a better place and to become socially useful
  • Are in transition from moral reasoning which focuses on “what’s in it for me” to that which considers the feelings and rights of others
  • Are moving from acceptance of adult moral judgments to development of their own personal values; nevertheless, they tend to embrace values consonant with those of their parents
  • Increasingly assess moral matters in shades of grey as opposed to viewing them in black and white terms characteristic of younger children
  • Greatly need and are influenced by adult role models who will listen to them and affirm their moral consciousness and actions as being trustworthy role models


Emotional/Psychological development

  • Experience mood swings often with peaks of intensity and unpredictability
  • Need to release energy, often resulting in sudden, apparently meaningless outbursts of activity
  • Seek to become increasingly independent, searching for adult identity and acceptance
  • Are increasingly concerned about peer acceptance
  • Tend to be self-conscious, lacking in self-esteem, and highly sensitive to personal criticism
  • Exhibit intense concern about physical growth and maturity as profound physical changes occur
  • Increasingly behave in ways associated with their sex as sex role identification strengthens
  • Believe that personal problems, feelings, and experiences are unique to themselves

Social development

  • Have a strong need to belong to a group, with peer approval becoming more important as adult approval decreases in importance
  • Experiment with new slang and behaviors as they search for a social position within their group, often discarding these “new identities” at a later date
  • Desire recognition for their efforts and achievements
  • Often overreact to ridicule, embarrassment, and rejection
  • Are socially vulnerable because, as they develop their beliefs, attitudes, and values, the influence of media and negative experiences with adults and peers may compromise their ideals and values

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