Helping Teens Answer the Question "Who Am I?": Social Development (page 2)

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Topics with Friends or Family

Teenagers change in other means of social development. They lean on their parents as their main sources of support until around 7th grade. Then they move into adolescence and lean on not just their parents, but their same-gender friends as equal means of support. By 10th grade, adolescents lean more on their same-gender friends than their parents. By emerging adulthood (typically college students), they lean more on their romantic partners for their main sources of support (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992).

When adolescents need to talk about their personal feelings, sorrows, or secrets, they tend to go to their best friend or their relationship partner. Parents are not in their inner circle as much when it comes to these topics anymore. They do like to talk to their parents about other things. Usually relating to how well they are doing in school, their career goals, and their hopes and plans for the future. They prefer to talk to their friends about their attitudes about marriage, their views on sex, problems with the opposite sex, and feelings about the opposite sex (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992).

Tips for Agents and Parents

Now that we have a sense of some of the important social changes that occur during adolescence, we can use this information to help us understand teens. It will also help us recognize their sensitive thoughts and feelings. And we can use it to help us direct them toward positive behavior and outcomes.

Parents can help their adolescents by providing support when they need it. This may mean that parents will need some patience and understanding when they begin to see their teenager lean more on their friends and less on them. It is easy to feel a sense of loss over this shift in adolescence when they begin getting advice on social relationships from their friends.

Parents may feel better when they understand that this is a sign of maturity and a natural process. They can further accept this change by knowing that their teenager still needs them. They can guide them into good academic decisions, making realistic career goals, and plans for the future. All very important parts of an adolescent's daily thoughts and all critical to their success. If parents focus on providing the support that they need during this time, it will help their adolescent transition through social development changes with less stress and with more positive outcomes.


Arnett, Jeffrey J. (2001). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Berk, Laura E. (2000) Child Development, 5th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Buhrmester, D. & Carbery, J. (1992, March). Daily patterns of self-disclosure and adolescent adjustment. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Washington, D.C.

Furman, W. & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63, 103-115.

Wheeler, M.D. (1991). Physical changes of puberty. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, 20, 1-14.


  1. This document is FCS2242, one of a series of the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date December 6, 2005. Visit the EDIS Web Site at
  2. Rosemary V. Barnett, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean.

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