Adolescent Development Explained

Adolescence is a time of enormous transition. Although adolescence may appear to be a turbulent time, it’s also a period of great potential as young people engage more deeply with the world around them. Adolescents typically grow physically, try new activities, begin to think more critically, and develop more varied and complex relationships.

The Office of Population Affairs worked with the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to create a guide that examines the major developmental changes that occur in adolescence and provides suggestions on how parents and caring adults can support young people as they navigate through this critical period. It builds on The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development - PDF, the seminal report also developed by the Center for Adolescent Health, as well as on other important sources of information. The guide focuses specifically on five areas of adolescent development:

  • Physical (hormonal changes and development)
  • Cognitive (changes in the way the brain functions)
  • Emotional (how adolescents process emotions and stress)
  • Social (changes in familial, social, and romantic relationships)
  • Morals and values (how adolescents regard their place in the world)

It’s important to note that these five areas often overlap and intersect. For instance, adolescents who are struggling with depression and/or anxiety also can experience problems with their school work, parents, peers, and physical health, and may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Adults need to understand this complexity, respond in a supportive way, and seek professional help for such adolescents if needed.

For each of the five areas of development, parents and professionals will learn about:

  • Changes that are a normal and necessary part of adolescence;
  • Different ways that adolescents experience these changes and reasons for this variation; and
  • How adults can support adolescents’ optimal health and development by guiding young people and helping them build the skills they need to thrive in the future.

Download and print the Adolescent Development Explained guide - PDF.

Adolescent Development Explained Webinar Series


Note: The slides are undergoing 508 review and will be updated pending remediation. For immediate assistance, please contact: