HomeHealth & BehaviorHealth & Nutrition

Child development: 13- to 16-year-olds

Page 2 of 2

By Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.

Social & emotional development

During this period your child will continue to be an emotional pendulum: happy and at ease one year, troubled by self doubts the next. These swings will smooth out as your teen approaches the end of high school and gains more confidence in his own independence.


  • uncertain, unhappy, and sensitive
  • withdrawn; spends a lot of time alone; needs privacy
  • convinced that everyone else is watching and judging
  • very concerned with body image
  • self-esteem at a low ebb
  • not sociable with adults
  • friendships tend to be group-focused; more squabbling than a year ago


  • generally happy and easy-going
  • recognizes own strengths and weaknesses
  • finds many faults with, and is embarrassed by, both parents
  • likes to be busy and involved in many extracurricular activities
  • social circle is large and varied; includes friends of both sexes
  • very anxious to be liked
  • interest in the opposite sex is strong


  • may be quarrelsome and reluctant to communicate
  • strong desire for independence; wants to be free of family
  • relationship with siblings may be better than with parents
  • friends are very important; may have one or two "best friends"
  • dating and romantic relationships are commonplace


  • relationship with family is easy and giving
  • feels comfortable in own skin; secure sense of self
  • starts to view parents as people, rather than rule-makers
  • friendships are very important
  • most have many friends of both sexes with shared interests
  • romantic relationships can be quite intense

And finally ...

Remember that growth and development are influenced by many factors — including genetic, social, and cultural — and that each child is an individual who will develop at his own pace. The milestones presented here are averages; your child may progress more quickly or a little more slowly. You can help your child through this period of great change by showing support and listening to his worries and concerns. And as always, if any aspect of your child's development seems atypical, talk to his pediatrician and encourage your teen to ask questions as well.

© 2008 GreatSchools Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally created by Schwab Learning, formerly a program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.


  1. John P. Dworetzky, Introduction to Child Development, 5th ed., (West Publishing, 1993).

Comments from readers

"Pretty accurate about 16 when i wad 15 i though about everyone jugging me now i dont give a crap and realatioships do get intense this girl christa i cant get her out of my head she is so beautiful so if your kid has a girlfriend dont embarris him/her your kid is gonna have S.E.X its hard for dads to see there daughter having it and moms stop thinking of your son as your baby we hate that "
"good article but misses the point of '9-12' years lol "
"i am 13 years old and im not any of that of what you say that is a LIE if ive ever heard one.... love ya! "
"this was useful, thankyou. "
"it is nice "
"why is the site talking on older children when i asked about an 11 year old childs do we get info out this way?????"
"i think that this site is good "
"This informations are very accurate and right."
"This article does not refer to any developments that 9,10,11, or 12 year old goes through. It focuses more on 13 year old and young adults."
"Even though the title says 9 to 12 year olds it talks about 13 to 16. Could you send me the 9 to 12?"
"Why does this article say it will talk about 9 to 12 year olds and then talk about older children (13 to 16 year olds)??"
"it only talks about interlectual and physical but not emotional or social "
"i like this link alot "
"Call me silly, but the title of this article refers to 9-12 year olds, but seems to actually be talking to 13-16 year olds... Is this mis-posted?"
"article mis-titled - should re-title targeting 13-16 year olds. That being said, do you have an article for 9-12 year olds? "
" 13 and i dont think 13-year-olds only care about themselves!!!!!!!!!!"
"This article intended for Child Development of ages 9 to 12 is incorrect. The information provided is for for ages 13 to 16 as provided in the text. Where is the Child Development information for children 9 to 12 years old? Thank you for your help."