Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Cognitive Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years - Topic Overview

By age 16, most teens are developing the ability to think abstractly, deal with several concepts at the same time, and imagine the future consequences of their actions. This type of thinking in a logical sequence continues to develop into adulthood.

Also by age 16, teens can learn to process more complex problems, to develop and test theories, to understand analogies, to reason inductively and deductively, and to think inferentially. They are better able to handle a more demanding high school curriculum because their memory and organizational abilities—such as time management, test preparation, and study skills—improve. Written and spoken language become more and more sophisticated. They may also begin to grasp political, moral, social, and philosophical concepts.

Most teens know the right thing to do. But their self-centered thoughts and behaviors may sway them to act with little thought about the end result. Bit by bit, their moral sense continues to evolve.

Sometimes teens grow a bit arrogant with their newfound mental abilities, and some parents complain that their teens "know everything." It can sometimes be difficult to deal with teens during this time because although they understand that others have differing viewpoints, they often firmly believe their own perception is the most true or valid.

Even though teens are forming adult cognitive abilities, they still do not have the life experiences to guide them in making the best choices. Indeed, adults struggle with this, too. They may reason that focusing on getting good grades in high school may further their academic future, but they might choose to spend their time working or socializing.

Researchers theorize that a teen's experiences determine, to a large degree, which connections in the brain are made stronger and which are "pruned," a sort of "use it or lose it" process. Researchers suggest that teens' accomplishments in sports or academics, for example, may positively affect the way they think for the rest of their lives. Advanced mental development may be the result of dramatic brain growth during puberty and then a refining process seen in the late teen years.

    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.
    1
    Next Article:

    Cognitive Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Slideshow
    Young woman holding lip at dentists office
    Video
     
    Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    tissue box
    Quiz
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow