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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years
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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:
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.
Teens need an eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your teen's physical or emotional health, such as:
Also call your doctor if you notice changes in your teen's friendships or relationships or if you need help talking with your teen.
Even though teens don't always welcome your help, they still need it. Your being available and involved in your teen's life can help your teen avoid risky behavior. It also helps your teen grow and develop into a healthy adult. Here are some things you can do:
Teens really want to know that they can talk honestly and openly with you about their feelings and actions. It is very important for teens to know that you love them no matter what.
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Teens grow and develop at different rates. But general teen growth and development patterns can be grouped into four main categories.
Growth and development does not always occur evenly among different categories. For example, your teen may have a tremendous growth spurt and look almost like an adult but may seem socially and emotionally young for his or her age. Eventually, most teens mature in all areas of growth and development, especially if given the right tools and parental guidance.
The word "teenager" to many people brings up an image of a wild and reckless young person whose main purpose in life is to rebel against his or her parents. Most teenagers do not fit this description. Of course, there are times when any teenager may be hard to deal with. But many teenagers are trying their best to please parents while they work toward some level of independence.
Parents of teenagers ages 15 to 18 are often most concerned about whether their teens will be able to make good decisions. Parents know that the choices children make during the teen years can have an impact on much of their adult lives. It is normal to worry. But the chances are that he or she is going to be okay. Although your child may sometimes have lapses in judgment, know that you do have an effect on what your child decides, even if it doesn't always seem that way.
Know that you are not alone in these types of concerns. For example, many parents worry about whether their teenager will:
Try to understand the issues your teen faces. Although you may remember some struggles from your own teen years, the issues your teen faces are likely quite different. Stay involved in your teen's life, such as by going to school events and encouraging your teen to bring friends to your house while you are home. You can better see the world from his or her perspective when you are familiar with it. Also, learn to recognize your teen's stress triggers and offer guidance on how to manage the anxiety they may cause. But be careful not to get too caught up in your teen's world. If you try to take too much control, it will likely only make things harder for him or her.
You can help your teen between the ages of 15 and 18 years by using basic parenting strategies. These include offering open, positive communication while providing clear and fair rules and consistent guidance. Support your teen in developing healthy habits and attitudes, help him or her make wise choices, and offer guidance in how to balance responsibilities.
The following are examples of ways to promote healthy growth and development in specific areas. But remember that many growth and development issues overlap. For example, having a healthy body image is important for physical development and emotional development. Use these ideas as a starting point to help your teen make good choices that will help him or her grow into a healthy and happy adult.
Promote your teen's physical development by doing the following:
Promote your teen's healthy emotional and social development by doing the following:
Promote your teen's mental (cognitive) development by doing the following:
Promote your teen's sensory and motor development by doing the following:
Talk to your teen's doctor if you are concerned about your teen's health or other issues. For example, you may have concerns about your teen:
Call the doctor or a mental health professional if your teen develops behavioral problems or signs of mental health problems. These may include:
For more information, see the topics Depression in Children and Teens, Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and/or Teen Alcohol and Drug Use.
It's important for your teen to continue to have routine checkups. These checkups allow the doctor to detect problems and to make sure your teen is growing and developing as expected. The doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your teen's social, academic, relationship, and mental health status. Your teen's immunization record will be reviewed, and needed immunizations should be given at this time. For more information on immunizations, see:
Teens also need to have regular dental checkups and need to be encouraged to brush and floss regularly. For more information about dental checkups, see the topic Basic Dental Care.
Starting in the teen years, most doctors like to spend some time alone with your child during the visit. State laws vary about teens' rights to medical privacy. Most doctors will clarify expectations. Ideally, you will all agree that anything your teen discusses privately with the doctor will remain confidential, with few exceptions. This gives your teen an opportunity to talk to the doctor about any issue they may not feel comfortable sharing with you.
Other Works Consulted
Committee on Adolescence, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (2014). Screening for nonviral sexually transmitted infections in adolescents and young adults. Pediatrics, 134(1): e302–e311. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-1024. Accessed July 11, 2014.
Cromer B, et al. (2011). Adolescent development. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 649–659. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Dweck CS, Master A (2009). Self-concept. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 427–435. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Garrison W, Felice ME (2009). Adolescence. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 62–73. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Meininger E, Remafedi G (2008). Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adolescents. In LS Neinstein et al., eds., Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, 5th ed., pp. 554–564. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Sass A, et al. (2014). Adolescence. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 117–157. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Strasburger VC (2009). Media. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 192–200. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Current as of:
February 10, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Susan C. Kim MD - PediatricsJohn Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: February 10, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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