Adolescence Developmental Psychology

Learn about Adolescent Development and careers in this area

adolescence developmental psychology

Developmental psychology professionals acknowledge that the consequences of bad health habits and extreme behaviors during adolescence have adverse effects on a person's entire life, but they also know that through research and education, they can help teens and their families avoid the most extreme consequences. (see Teenage Depression).

Developmental psychologists research and study normal teen development and social adjustment in addition to the more intense and often risky behaviors that can negatively impact future lives (see Developmental Psychologist Career). Understanding "adolescent-specific" issues helps direct public policy issues related to teens, creates appropriate educational programs and curricula, and helps health care professionals treat adolescents. As in other life stages, adolescent developmentalists focus on the physical, cognitive and emotional aspects of human growth for adolescent individuals ages 12 through 19.

Specific adolescent developments

Between the ages of 8 and 14 hormonal changes initiate puberty, which results in sexual maturation, and dramatic internal and external physical changes. Within a year of puberty, a growth spurt causes children to get taller, heavier and increase their muscle mass. All of these physical changes require an increase in calcium, iron and zinc, and a significant increase in calories. However, teens, like adults, often eat poorly - but the consequences for teens can be even more severe.

Bones, for example, grow the fastest during the teen years; by age 17, teens have acquired 90 percent of their adult bone mass. Yet, according to a 2006 report by the National Institutes of Health, fewer than one in ten girls, and only one in four boys, ages 9 to 13, are at or above their adequate intake of calcium. Unfortunately, calcium deficiencies can't be made up for later in life.

Adolescence - Sex and Drug Use

Teen sexual maturation means that like every human alive, normal sexual urges become a natural part of life. Yet again, the implications of impulsive behavior can dramatically alter a young woman or man's life. Pregnancy for girls under the age of 16 increases the risk of severe complications, such as high blood pressure, stillbirth, and a low-birth weight baby (see Teenage Pregnancy). And all adolescent teens raising babies have a higher risk of dropping out of school and living in poverty. Additionally, compared to the general population, teenagers have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and are more likely to catch HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

Gateway drugs - alcohol, tobacco and marijuana - are yet another area of concern in the teen population (see Teenage Drug Use). Researchers specifically have studied the effect of gateway drugs because these drugs typically start individuals on a path toward addiction and abuse. Many studies have shown that drug use started in the teen years leads to violence, early sexual activity, and higher school dropout rates. Studies have also found that drug-abuse problems started in the teen-age years lead to serious abuse problems in early adulthood, although abuse tends to decrease in the late 20s. So developmentalists recommend postponing the first experimentation or taste of these drugs for as long as possible, recognizing that research also shows that by high school graduation, the majority of students has tried one of these drugs.

While maturing physically, teens also continue to change cognitively. The Swiss researcher Jean Piaget (1896-1980) defined the adolescent cognitive stage as "formal operational thought." It is during this stage, he determined, that individuals move from thinking concretely about reality, to imagining the probable and impossible. In other words, they are able to think logically about abstract concepts.

In addition, researchers after Piaget have shown that it is during adolescence that teens develop intuitive thought, which means they also use memories and feelings to reason. Current research points strongly to the idea that two paths of reasoning - logical and intuitive - are independently developed, and that thoughts on one path can conflict or coexist with thoughts on the other path.

Finally, the reason that teens' emotions always seem to be in a state of flux stems from their simultaneous search for identity, dependence on a peer group, and the high priority they place on social approval. All of these are normal adolescent experiences, and, most developmentalists argue, are necessary for emotional health in adulthood. Problems can occur, however, when a teen adopts a persona or "false self" because they do not feel accepted by friends or even their family, or if the teen gravitates toward a peer group that encourages deviant behavior (see Teenage Depression).

Despite the "tormented and troublesome" adolescent stereotypes, most teens stay out of trouble, enjoy their advanced thinking skills and abilities, and their emotions remain relatively stable. And most go on to become healthy and well functioning adults.

Nevertheless, adolescence is a critical time for individuals as it provides the pathway from childhood to adulthood, and the many developmental issues and topics related to adolescence fascinate and challenge professionals working in this field.

If you are interested in developmental psychology, especially as it relates to adolescents, you should consider getting a degree in psychology or a related field. Most positions require at least a master's or PhD.

Also, learn more about the psychology career licensing processes and what the requirements for licensure are: Psychology Career Licensure.

Developmental Psychology Schools & Colleges
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5 Programs in
Campus
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
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  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
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  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Programs in
Online
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
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  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
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  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
4 Programs in
Online
  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
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  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
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  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked #23 in National Universities in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges from U.S. News and World Report.
  • Founded in 1834, its 340 acre campus is located in Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Its student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 58.6% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 94%.
  • Its stated mission is “to educate the whole person, graduating students who seek purpose-filled lives while building a community dedicated to serving humanity in the spirit of our motto, Pro Humanitate.
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  • Ranked #23 in National Universities in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges from U.S. News and World Report.
  • Founded in 1834, its 340 acre campus is located in Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Its student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 58.6% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 94%.
  • Its stated mission is “to educate the whole person, graduating students who seek purpose-filled lives while building a community dedicated to serving humanity in the spirit of our motto, Pro Humanitate.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Online
  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
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  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
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  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
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  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
Show more [+]
4 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits