Early Adolescence (12-14 years old)
Early adolescence is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen. Girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start menstruating. They might be worried about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This will also be a time when your teenager might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs, and to have sex. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, and family problems.
At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests. Some changes younger teens go through are:
More concern about body image, looks, and clothes.
Focus on self, going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence.
More interest in and influence by peer group.
Less affection shown toward parents. May sometimes seem rude or short-tempered.
Anxiety from more challenging school work.
Eating problems sometimes start at this age. For information on healthy eating and exercise for children and teenagers, visit http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/.
More ability for complex thought.
Better able to express feelings through talking.
A stronger sense of right and wrong.
Many teens sometimes feel sad or depressed. Depression can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems. For more information on adolescent mental health, visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/depchildmenu.cfm.
(Adapted with permission from Bright Futures: Green M, Palfrey JS, editors. Bright Futures Family Tip Sheets: Early Adolescence. Arlington (VA): National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, 2001. Other sources: American Academy of Child and Family Psychiatry and the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention content is free and public domain.
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