Independence, individuality, identity, and self-esteem are buzzwords for early teen emotional and social development.
Elementary school-age children have strong ties to their families and want to please their parents. The years 11 through 14 are a transition between childhood and adulthood. Appropriately, adolescents begin to feel the psychological urge to become more independent from their families. This is sometimes seen in an all-consuming interest in friends and teen hobbies. Early adolescents tend to form strong, same-sex friendships. They may have such strong alliances and feelings that they can wonder if they could be gay or lesbian.
Adolescents often lose interest in family matters. When at home, they may want to be alone, hanging out in their rooms with music blaring.
Seeking independence is a wholesome and needed step, although it is often misunderstood. Adolescents may have periods of being sullen and aloof, and parents feel hurt by this behavior. But it is normal for the age. When adolescents are with their parents, they are reminded that they are children, even if parents don't treat them that way, and they want to feel like grown-ups. Often, the more parents try to hold on to a childhood image of their children, the more independence adolescents usually assert.
With independence comes a need to have an individual identity. To establish their identity, many adolescents associate with peers and strive to be independent of family. The peer group often replaces, at least in part, parents as a source of support and advice. Adolescents often express their individuality by dressing like their friends or by joining the same activities, such as skateboarding or cheerleading.
Some parents take this change in attitude as a personal attack, although it is a normal part of adolescent social and emotional development. Remember: Your child is establishing himself or herself as an individual, and that often means not being like you. So be prepared!
Adolescents with healthy self-esteem may be least vulnerable to peer group pressure. When they are faced with difficult decisions, they are best able to call on values learned at home.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics