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Child Development Guide: 16-19 Years

— Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Updated on Nov 12, 2009

Developmental Tasks

  • To create own personal identity based upon the integration of values and a sense of self in relation to society, others, the opposite sex, the future, vocations, ideas, and the cosmos. To establish independence from the family.

Indicators Related to Developmental Lag

  • Depression, suicide attempts, sense of isolation, loneliness, impulsiveness, extreme rebellion, denial of feelings, poor hygiene, fantasy as an escape from problems, drug/alcohol abuse, anorexia, bulimia, obesity, sexual activity to provide missing nurturance, prostitution, stealing, pathological lying, psychosis, fire-setting, violent assault, truancy, running away, pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, cults, early marriages that are likely to fail, hatred and rejection of family.

Note: Although these tasks and indicators may be present during ages 16 to 19, each may be more observable at specific times.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Sixteen to Nineteen Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Has essentially completed physical maturation; physical features are shaped and defined. Recognize and compliment physical maturity.
Probability of acting on sexual desires increases. Provide accurate information on consequences of sexual activity, discuss birth control and HIV prevention.
Physical Development for Twelve to Fifteen Years  
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INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT: Sixteen to Nineteen Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
May lack information or self-assurance about personal skills and abilities. Facilitate appointment with school counselor.
Seriously concerned about the future; beginning to integrate knowledge leading to decisions about future. Encourage talking about and planning for future.
Intellectual Development for Twelve to Fifteen Years  
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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Sixteen to Nineteen Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Relationships with parents range from friendly to hostile. Try to maintain good relationship; be respectful and friendly.
Sometimes feels that parents are "too interested." Try not to pry.
Usually has many friends and few confidants; dates actively; varies greatly in level of maturity; may be uncomfortable, or enjoy activities, with opposite sex; may talk of marriage. Recognize and accept current level of interest in opposite sex. Encourage experiences with a variety of people, e.g., younger, older, different cultures.
May be strongly invested in a single, romantic relationship. Avoid disapproval; discuss needs and expectations that get met in the relationship.
Social Development for Twelve to Fifteen Years  
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EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Sixteen to Nineteen Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Worries about failure. Be available to talk and to listen.
May appear moody, angry, lonely, impulsive, self-centered, confused, and stubborn. Accept feelings -- don't overreact; jointly establish limits, but don't revert to childhood restrictions.
Has conflicting feelings about dependence/independence. Avoid ridicule of inconsistent behaviors. Accept needs for separation.
Emotional Development for Twelve to Fifteen Years  
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MORAL DEVELOPMENT: Sixteen to Nineteen Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Is confused and disappointed about discrepancies between stated values and actual behaviors of family and friends; experiences feelings of frustration, anger, sorrow, and isolation. Be sensitive to youth's feelings and thoughts. Try to bring them out in the open. Understand your own perspectives relating to values.
May be interested in sex as response to physical-emotional urges and as a way to participate in the adult world (but not necessarily an expression of mature intimacy). Don't moralize. Accept sexual experimentation as normal and healthy, although discourage them from unprotected coital sex. Provide correct information on human sexuality, venereal disease, HIV and AIDS, birth control, intimacy, and safe types of sexual experimentation.

Communicate your feelings about sexual relations. Be open to discussion and appreciate possible differences in values and needs.

Moral Development for Twelve to Fifteen Years  
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