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Emotional and Social Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years


The years 11 through 14 are the start of a change from childhood to adulthood. Independence, individuality, identity, and self-esteem are important concepts in your child's emotional and social development at this age.

Adolescents start to feel the urge to be more independent from their families. They may be obsessed with their friends and hobbies. They tend to form strong, same-sex friendships. They may have such strong feelings that they may wonder about their sexual orientation.

Adolescents often lose interest in family matters. When at home, they may want to be alone. They may stay in their room with music blaring.

Seeking independence is a wholesome and needed step that's often misunderstood. Adolescents may have periods of being sullen and aloof. Parents may feel hurt by this behavior, but it's normal for this age group. Being with their parents reminds them that they're children. This is true even if you don't treat them that way. But they want to feel like grownups. Often, the more you try to hold on to a childhood image of your children, the more independent they'll try to be.

Adolescents also have a need to find their own identity. Their peer group often replaces parents as a source of support and advice, at least in part. Adolescents often express themselves by dressing like their friends. Or they may join the same activities, such as skateboarding or cheerleading.

These changes may make you feel like you're being rejected. But they're a normal part of your child's social and emotional development. Remember: This is how children find themselves as individuals. That often means not being like you. So be prepared!

Having healthy self-esteem helps protect adolescents from peer group pressure. When they face tough choices, they can call on values learned at home.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics


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