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Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years - Topic Overview

How do teenagers grow and develop during ages 15 to 18?

The ages from 15 to 18 are an exciting time of life. But these years can be challenging for teens and their parents. Emotions can change quickly as teens learn to deal with school, their friends, and adult expectations. Teen self-esteem is affected by success in school, sports, and friendships. Teens tend to compare themselves with others, and they might form false ideas about their body image. The influence of TV, magazines, and the Internet can add to a teen's poor body image.

For parents, the teen years are a time to get to know their teenager. While teens are maturing, they still need a parent's love and guidance. Most do just fine as they face the challenges of being a teen. But it is still important for teens to have good support from their parents so that they can get through these years with as few problems as possible.

There are four basic areas of teenage development:

  • Physical development. Most teens enter puberty by age 15. Girls go through a time of rapid growth right before their first menstrual period. And by age 15, girls are near their adult height. Boys usually continue to grow taller and gain weight through their teen years.
  • Cognitive development. As they mature, teens are more able to think about and understand abstract ideas such as morality. They also begin to understand other people better. Even though they have a certain amount of empathy and can understand that others have different ideas, they often strongly believe that their own ideas are the most true.
  • Emotional and social development. Much of teens' emotional and social growth is about finding their place in the world. They are trying to figure out "Who am I?" and "How do I fit in?" So it is normal for their emotions to change from day to day.
  • Sensory and motor development. Boys continue to get stronger and more agile even after puberty. Girls tend to level out. Getting plenty of exercise helps improve strength and coordination in boys and girls.

When are routine medical visits needed?

A teenager should see his or her doctor for a routine checkup each year. The doctor will ask your teen questions about his or her life and activities. This helps the doctor check on your teen's mental and physical health. It's a good idea to give your teen some time alone with the doctor during these visits to talk in private. Your teen will also get the shots (immunizations) that are needed at each checkup.

Teens should also see the dentist each year.

When should you call your doctor?

Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your teen's physical or emotional health, such as:

  • Delayed growth.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Body image problems.
  • Behavior changes.
  • Skipping school or other problems with school.
  • Alcohol and drug use.

Also call your doctor if you notice changes in your teen's friendships or relationships or if you need help talking with your teen.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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