Understanding emotions in teens


There is a time in every individual’s life when they are confused and there are lot of questions in their mind like- who am I? Why am I on earth? What should be my goal in life? In major decisions they are not treated as adults and are taken as small kids while in other things they are expected to behave in a responsible way like an adult. Most of us are going through or have already gone through this phase of life. And yes you are right this phase of life is adolescence.

What is adolescence?

Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. This is a period when there are a lot physical, emotional and psychological changes taking place. This is a time when the emotional development gives rise to the individual’s identity as an adult.

Adolescence is a period of progressive development of an adolescent as an individual and separation from the family virtues. This is the time when adolescents must learn who they are, decide what they want to do and identify their personal strengths and weaknesses. Although the development process is gradual but there is a marked rapidity of physical, emotional, cognitive and social growth during adolescence. It makes essential to divide it into three phases. The phases of adolescence are-

  • Early adolescence- roughly from 10 to 13 years of age
  • Middle adolescence- from 14 to 16 years
  • Late adolescence-17 years and later

Early Adolescence

Early adolescence is the time when a child just enters the adolescence. This phase of life is characterized by rapid growth and development of secondary sex characteristics.

  • Body image, self-concept and self-esteem fluctuate dramatically. This is the time when there are lot of physical changes taking place. Development of breast and onset of menarche in females and change in genitals and appearance of beard makes adolescents more concerned and conscious about their body image.
  • Puberty is not reached by all individuals at the same time. Your friends might experience it earlier than you. Concerns about how personal growth and development deviate from that of peers may be a great worry, especially short stature in boys and delayed breast development or delayed menarche in girls is the matter of concern for all early adolescents. But there is nothing to panic or worry about. You are going to experience it sooner or later.
  • Although there is a certain curiosity about sexuality, young adolescents generally feel more comfortable with members of the same sex. Infatuation and attraction towards opposite sex is very common. Peer relationships become increasingly important and adolescents take advice of peers more seriously than their parents or teachers. This is the time when bonding with the peers is maximum as adolescents feel that they are sailing in the same boat with same problems.
  • Young teenagers still think concretely and cannot easily conceptualize about the future. Teenagers usually have vague and unrealistic professional goals at this point of time, such as becoming a movie star or a lead singer in a rock group.

Middle Adolescence

Middle adolescence is the time when growth spurt has already taken place. This is the time when rapid pubertal development subsides, teenagers become more comfortable with their new body. Although the physical growth spurt has already taken place but emotional and psychological development is a progressive and ongoing process and there are other problems that are typical to this group.

  • Intense emotions and wide swings in mood are typical in this age group. Sometimes teenagers feel elated and nothing bad can happen to them while at other times they feel lost, depressed and feel as if all the bad stuff is just happening with them. Although some teenagers go through this experience relatively peacefully, others struggle.
  • As the emotions and intelligence develop the mid adolescent moves from concrete thinking to formal operations and abstract thinking. With this new mental power come a sense of omnipotence and a belief that the world can be changed by merely thinking about it.
  • Attraction and infatuation towards the opposite sex makes teenagers sexually active. Sexually active teenagers usually believe that they do not need to worry about using contraception because they can't get pregnant ("it won't happen to me").
  • With the onset of abstract thinking, teenagers begin to see themselves as others see them and may become extremely self-centred. They get too conscious about their body image and most of the time is usually spent in front of mirrors. Starting of eating disorders is also common during this age.
  • Because they are establishing their own identities, relationships with other people, including peers, are narcissistic. Teenagers usually love to be around those people who praise about them and where their self-image is glorified. Handling criticism is a very difficult thing at this age.
  • Experimenting with different images is common. As sexuality increases in importance, adolescents may begin dating and experimenting with sex. Relationships tend to be one-sided and narcissistic.
  • Peers determine the standards for identification, behaviour, activities and fashion and provide emotional support, intimacy, empathy, and the sharing of guilt and anxiety during the struggle for autonomy.
  • Following celebs and latest trends in fashion, style, gizmos and technology is what teenagers enjoy maximum at this point of time.
  • The struggle for independence and autonomy is often a stressful period for both teenagers and parents.

Late Adolescence

During late adolescence, the young person generally becomes less self-centered and more caring of others. Willingness to do good to others, becoming a part of support group or doing something good for society is always high on priority.

  • Social relationships shift from the peer group to the individual. From what used to be a big peer group friendship with one or two special friends is usually seen during this time.
  • Abstract thinking allows older adolescents to think more realistically about their plans for the future. Future plans and realistic career goals are usually set at this time.
  • Older adolescents have rigid concepts of what is right or wrong. This is a period of idealism.

Teenagers or adolescents are not persons from other planet they are just like us who are struggling every day for their self-perception and existence. This phase of life is difficult for both parents and teenagers as there is a lot of communication gap between them. But there is an easy way to it whenever there’s some problem talk to your parents and they will definitely understand you as they have also gone through the same. With love, patience and care every difficult road can be made beautiful.


  1. Nelson textbook of paediatrics, 19th edition, Kliegman, Stanton, St. Geme, Schor, Behrman. Elsevier publication. ISBN: 978-1-4377-0755-7. Chapter-12 & 14.
  2. Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th edition, Frederic et al, ISBN-13: 978-0-7216-0549-4. Chapter-6

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