Have you ever wondered what goes on in the minds of teenagers? Growing up is a challenge every person will face at some point, but knowing what’s “normal” in this period of growth can be tricky to understand.
If you’re a concerned parent, a friend, or perhaps a teen looking for answers about yourself during this time of change, there are loads of facts that may enlighten you.
Keep reading to discover 23 thought-provoking psychology facts about teenagers. And while you’re at it, look into some facts about anxiety, a condition particularly common during this phase of life.
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23 Psychology Facts About Teenagers
While everyone will go through the human experience differently, we share some common traits, especially during puberty and our teen years. In this list, you’ll find information about the psychology of the teenage mind — some surprising, and others may be just what you need to hear.
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1. Adolescence Lasts About A Decade for Most People
That’s right; the World Health Organization defines adolescence or being a teenager as the “phase of life between childhood and adulthood,” generally from the ages of 10 to 19. This translates to roughly 10 years of major physical, emotional, and mental changes.
2. There Are Three Stages of Adolescence
As this is a period of lots of growth and change for children developmentally, scientists have outlined three typical phases in adolescence that we all go through. Early adolescence happens between the ages of 10 and 13, when puberty usually begins.
In middle adolescence (14 to 17), teens have growth spurts, start dating, and can set long-term goals. Finally, in late adolescence (18 to 21), teenagers stop changing physically and have more cognitive development regarding rational thinking, self-control, and a sense of identity.
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3. Puberty Usually Starts Earlier for Girls Than for Boys
Girls, on average, tend to start puberty two years earlier than boys, between the ages of eight and 14, while boys begin showing signs of puberty from age 10 onwards. However, this can vary from person to person due to genetics, diet, and exercise.
4. There Are New Theories on Extended Adolescence
Scientists are divided on a new theory that claims adolescence should be extended to 24 due to many factors keeping young people from reaching adulthood. Some argue that their adolescence is delayed because young adults are leaving home and achieving milestones later in life than previous generations.
Although, this theory hasn’t been widely adopted as scientists warn it may infantilize young people.
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5. Their Brains go Through a Pruning Process
During your teen years, your brain goes through a pruning process. This means that because the teen brain is developing fast, it has plenty of neural connections not in use. As you age, the neural pathways you use the most are strengthened while the leftovers slowly die away during the structural reorganization of your brain.
6. They Need More Sleep Than Other Age Groups
It’s a common myth that teenagers need less sleep than younger children. Teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep a day because their circadian rhythms are in flux during this time. Their bodies naturally get up and stay up later because of all of the physiological changes occurring within them.
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7. The Prefrontal Cortex is Still Developing in Adolescence
Your prefrontal cortex is the last part of your brain to develop as you grow up. Important changes happen throughout your teen years related to decision-making, processing information, and cognitive control.
However, because this growth takes time, young people often struggle with planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses until the prefrontal cortex fully develops at 25.
8. They Take More Risks
This age group takes more risks due to hormonal fluctuations, social pressure, a desire for independence, and brain development. Since there are constant hormonal changes during adolescence, the amygdala, which deals with your emotions, goes into overdrive.
This is why intense sensations like fright, excitement, and affirmation become more compelling to teens. So, not only are teenagers more likely to engage in risky behavior, but they also find risk-taking more rewarding.
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9. Mental Health Disorders Can Appear During Adolescence
One in seven teens will experience a mental disorder around the world, with the most common being mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Other mental health conditions can appear, such as ADHD, schizophrenia in late adolescent boys, and psychosis.
Ongoing developmental changes in the brain and body, as well as environmental factors like poverty, abuse, and bullying, can trigger or worsen the development of mental illnesses.
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10. Many Teens Will Deal With Substance Abuse
The reasons adolescents may deal with substance abuse vary from peer pressure to the inability to measure risks or as a coping mechanism. The most common substances teenagers use recreationally include nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol, but the abuse of harder substances or prescription medication can also happen.
Mental illness, bullying, a turbulent home environment, and social obligation are all risk factors that can lead to substance abuse in this age group.
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11. Adolescent Brains Struggle With Stress
Due to fluctuations in neurotransmitters flooding the teenage brain, adolescents often struggle with stress more than children or adults because their serotonin levels are unstable. Serotonin is a calming chemical that helps de-escalate stress and tension, balance mood, and work with the emotional structures in the brain to promote emotional control.
12. Teenagers Place More Emphasis on Friendships
Adolescents are more interested in fostering friendships during this phase of development, which is completely normal and healthy. Teens who can have good friendships as they grow into adults are more likely to be happy and well-adjusted. Positive peer relationships are essential to good brain development and social harmony between young people.
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13. Mood Swings Are Common During This Time
Just as the teen brain is more vulnerable to stress, the ever-changing levels of dopamine (the pleasure and reward neurotransmitter) in their brains make mood swings par for the course. If proper emotional regulation is not taught from an early age, teenagers are more likely to feel the highs and lows of these increases or decreases in dopamine.
Common side effects of these changes include sudden meltdowns or sadness, increased sensitivity to boredom, and, in some cases, violent behavior.
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14. Teens Are More Likely to Give Into Peer Pressure
The downside of the teenage brain placing peers’ opinions over those of parents or mentors is that they will give in to social pressure more easily. Though each teen has an independent experience with their peers, following your peer group can have positive and negative consequences.
Positive peers will encourage healthy habits, whereas negative peers can encourage others to do risky things, bully others, or harm themselves.
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15. They’re Generally More Clumsy
As teens go through puberty, they’ll have several growth spurts, which can cause them to be less agile. Sudden body changes like drastic increases in height are a common reason you’ll find that teens may have more injuries during adolescence.
Tripping, falling, and losing balance are regular occurrences for this age group and often come down to the fact that their bodies are still adapting to the sudden changes.
16. Social Media Can be a Blessing or a Curse for Teens
Social media can be a haven of support, positive social interactions, and a way to stay in touch with your best friends constantly. But it can also be very stressful and upsetting for teens who deal with cyberbullying and low self-esteem.
Everyone has a love-hate relationship with social media, but teens are especially vulnerable to constant bullying and dangers like child predators.
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17. They Can Have Self Esteem Issues
We all know a healthy self-esteem is vital for good mental health, strong relationships, and independence. However, many teens struggle with low self-esteem and often don’t grow out of it in early adulthood unless help is available.
A bad self-image often results from feeling like you don’t fit in, being shunned by your peers, and can even begin from a bad home life. Young people who don’t have confidence in themselves tend to be less optimistic, feel incompetent, and lack emotional resilience.
18. Teens Are More Egocentric
You’ll find that as oxytocin increases in the brain during your teen years, a lot of focus is placed on yourself. This can lead to self-absorption and feeling more special than everyone else, but it can also lead to intense self-consciousness.
Teens who think like this can sometimes picture an imaginary audience watching their every move, which can harm their self-esteem.
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19. They Begin to Think Abstractly
As children tend to think in more black-and-white terms, the teen brain’s constant development leads to many complex changes in thinking. They can imagine new ideas, use hypothetical thinking, and have improved deductive reasoning.
The ability to think abstractly is hugely important to adulthood as you’re able to think more critically about relationships, philosophies, and the world around you.
20. Teens Test Boundaries With Their Parents
Since teenagers are hyperfocused on peer relations and independence, they often use their parents or guardians as a sounding board for what’s right and wrong.
Every teen will attempt to push social boundaries throughout adolescence. This is how they figure out limits, see that actions have consequences, and ultimately learn proper social behavior.
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21. Teens Are Very Sensitive About Respect
As teenagers move their focus from family to outward social relationships, they become more focused on fitting into society. You’ll find that young people will be very sensitive to respect and their social standing during adolescence.
As they look for belonging and adapt to cultural norms, they are acutely aware of how others offer respect and where they fit into their peer groups.
22. Criticism Makes Their Brains Shut Down
When parents criticize a teen, their prefrontal cortex, temporal lobes, and other key information-processing areas in the brain shut down. As the prefrontal cortex is still developing, the limbic system fires off intensely negative emotional feedback to the nagging or nitpicking they receive.
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23. Eating Disorders Are Often Developed During Adolescence
Both girls and boys can become susceptible to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder during adolescence.
However, eating disorders in girls are more prevalent as a greater emphasis is placed on body image, weight, and beauty standards. Girls are also more likely to develop an eating disorder as a coping mechanism against stress and peer pressure.