emotional development (2023)

  1. Teen Health
  2. adolescent development explained
  3. Emotional development

emotional development (1)

More topics on this page

  • Unique Issues in Emotional Development
  • How parents and responsible adults can support emotional development

General Emotional Changes Adolescent Experience

Healthy emotional development is characterized by an increasing ability to perceive, evaluate, and manage emotions. This is a biological process driven by physical and cognitive changes and strongly influenced by context and environment. During adolescence, young people often become more aware of their own feelings and the feelings of others, but these perceptions may still be tenuous. Adults sometimes expect teens to avoid letting their emotions interfere with their performance at school, work, and other activities, but doing so can be challenging in a complex environment. Some teens may be excited to take on new challenges as they become more independent, while others may need more support to build their confidence. The emotional development process provides adolescents with the opportunity to develop skills, discover unique qualities, and build strengths for optimal health.

Factors that affect how well teens navigate this process include:


hormonesThese critical chemicals in the brain that trigger physical changes also affect adolescents' moods and increase their emotional responses. These characteristics together mean that adolescents are more easily swayed by emotions and have difficulty making decisions that adults consider appropriate.1Adolescence is also a time of rapid and sometimes stressful changes in peer relationships, school expectations, family dynamics, and concerns about safety in communities. The body responds to stress by activating specific hormones and activities in the nervous system so that a person can respond quickly and perform well under pressure. The stress response is faster in adolescents than in adults, whose brains are fully developed and can moderate a stress response. Not all stressors are bad. Positive experiences, such as getting a first job or getting a driver's license, can trigger a stress response that allows teens to face a challenge with mindfulness and concentration.


(Video) How Can We Grow Emotionally?

Self-management.By managing their own emotions, teens can set positive goals and understand how their emotions can influence their goals and future. To improve their ability to manage emotions, adolescents must first learn to recognize and describe strong and complex emotions. Although young people learn to describe basic emotions earlier in life, as they get older, they develop the ability to truly understand what emotions are and understand their impact. When teens can recognize how they feel, they can choose how they will respond to a situation. They also learn to avoid the problems that strong emotions sometimes cause. However, because the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for reasoning, planning, and problem solving, as well as emotions, does not fully develop until the mid-20s, teens may have difficulty controlling your emotions and think about the consequences. Your Actions Over time, and with the support of parents and helpful adults, teens can develop the reasoning and abstract thinking skills that allow them to step back, examine their emotions, and consider the consequences before acting rashly.

emotional development (2)

Unique Issues in Emotional Development

Physical changes increase adolescents' capacity for emotional awareness, self-control, and empathy, but emotional development is strongly influenced by context. This means that many aspects of adolescents' lives can influence their emotional development. These aspects include:


Self-esteem.The way people feel about themselves, or the way they perceive their own talents, traits, and life experiences, can affect their sense of worth. A teen's self-esteem can be influenced by family approval, peer support, and personal successes. Research shows that teens with a positive self-concept experience greater academic success than teens who lack this quality. Body image concerns are also common and can provide opportunities for parents, teachers, and other adults to care for themselves by teaching self-care, offering encouragement, and reinforcing a positive body image. For some teens, body image concerns are extreme and, when combined with other warning signs, can indicate an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a type ofmental health problem among adolescents. However, feeling good about yourself does not necessarily protect against risky behavior. Therefore, it remains important to limit adolescents' exposure to risky situations and to empower young people to make healthy choices when they inevitably face such a situation.


Identity formation.There are many facets to identity formation, including such developmental tasks as becoming independent and achieving a sense of competence. Teens may question their passions and values, examine their relationships with family and peers, and think about their talents and definitions of success. Identity formation is an iterative process during which adolescents repeatedly experiment with different ideas, friends, and activities. Such experimentation is normal and can provide teens with the opportunity to learn more about themselves and others, but it is not always balanced with thoughtfulness or the cognitive ability to consider the consequences of their actions. While this path to finding one's own identity can be challenging for some families, it can also motivate teens to learn about themselves and become more confident in their own unique identities.


Stress.Adolescents live in a variety of environments and experience a wide range of stressors that affect emotional development. Learning healthy responses to stressful situations is part of normal development, and some stress can even be positive. However, some adolescents face particularly traumatic events, such as experiencing or witnessing physical or sexual abuse or school violence. Some of these events are prolonged or recurring, such as chronic abandonment or bullying. Some teens also have to deal with various types of traumatic stress. These more extreme forms of stress, often called toxic stress, can weaken a teen's immune system, resulting in chronic physical health problems and can lead to depression, anxiety, and other illnesses.mental health disorders. Toxic stress can also lead to stress-related illnesses and cognitive decline in later life. Teens who experience this form of stress are also more likely to use harmful substances, engage in other risky behaviors,2and experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition in which a person relives a traumatic event through lingering memories or flashbacks and experiences other symptoms such as insomnia, angry outbursts, or feelings of tension. However, people respond to stress differently, and a strong support system can help protect teens from lasting negative effects and create an environment that allows them to thrive.

(Video) The 3 Stages of Emotional Child Development

emotional development (3)

How parents and responsible adults can support emotional development

Parents and other adults can support positive emotional development and help young people thrive by modeling healthy behaviors. This means that it is important:


Make your own emotional well-being a priority.you might find it usefuljoin a parent groupwhere you can safely navigate your feelings with people who understand your point of view. Being aware of emotional well-being is especially important for people who work with traumatized adolescents. EITHERVicarious Trauma Toolboxit can help victim service providers, law enforcement, first responders, and other professionals deal with the emotional impact of their work.


Practice setting healthy goals.Let go of ideas of perfection for teens and yourself. Set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. When you hit a roadblock or experience failure, focus on what you can control and let go of the things you can't.


Valuing the unique identity of each adolescent.Even when you don't identify with a teen's feelings or experiences, your understanding and respect as a parent or caring adult is very important.

(Video) Bruce D. Perry: Social & Emotional Development in Early Childhood [CC]


Resolve conflicts with respect for others.When you disagree with someone, remember what you like about that person and focus on solving the problem instead of blaming them. Take time to calm down and think things through when you start to feel overwhelmed. Family conflicts can be especially stressful because of the intense emotions and relationship dynamics at play.


Manage your anger.Practicing relaxation exercises and using humor to defuse a tense situation are some strategies you can use tomanage your angerA. Seek professional help if you are not sure what to do.

Parents and other adults can also support adolescents' development of skills that facilitate emotional development by taking steps to:

Strengthen communication skills.Many lessons about relationships and emotions begin with the parent-child relationship. Effective and open communication is at the heart of this relationship. Strong communication skills include being an attentive listener, sharing your experiences rather than lecturing, and asking open-ended questions.

Build emotional vocabulary.Share your feelings and discuss how other people might feel without judging. Point out nonverbal cues, such as body language, when talking about emotions. Ask your child, "How did you feel about that?" and "How do you think that made the other person feel?"

Promote stress management skills.Encourage teens to deal with stress in a healthy way. Daily management strategies include getting enough sleep, staying active with exercise and hobbies, practicing deep breathing, and eating regular meals. teach adolescents to"Watch out for the brain"talking about teen brain development and letting them know how they can use their brain power to learn healthy behaviors.

Cultivate self-regulation skills.Provide opportunities for teens to understand, express, and moderate their own feelings and behaviors. This step consists of modelingself-regulationcreating a warm and welcoming environment, establishing consequences for bad decisions and reducing the emotional intensity of conflicts.

(Video) 6 Steps to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence | Ramona Hacker | TEDxTUM

Limit exposure to risky situations.Faced with a decision, emotions can be mixed with memories of what could have happened in the past. Prepare adolescents for risky situations by talking about what they can do to anticipate, avoid, and process them. Help teens weigh their emotions and think about the short-term and long-term consequences.

Help teens think through risky situations.After a risk event, ask teens, "Why do you think this happened?" and “What could you do differently next time?” It can take them a long time to fully process their experiences, so give them time to think about their responses.

Pay attention to warning signs.Teens may show signs of stress, anxiety, or depression, such as increased irritability or anger, changes in eating and sleeping habits, giving up favorite activities, or feelings of loneliness.Resourcesare available for those who are going through an emotional crisis. If you are concerned about the well-being of an adolescent, consult your doctor or mental health professional. A teenager can also callNational Suicide Prevention HotlineCall 1-800-273-TALK.

emotional development (4)

Explained Guide to Adolescent Development

Additional information on adolescent development can be found atadolescent development guide explained, developed by the Office of Population Affairs.

Emotional Shifts (Adolescent Development Webinar Series)

In this webinar, experts discuss emotional development in adolescence. Watch the recording atYouTubeoreview the slides.


1Arain, M., Haque, M., Johal, L., Mathur, P., Nel, W., Rais, A., ...Sharma, S. (2013). Maturation of the adolescent brain.Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 9, 449-461.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621648/ go back up

2Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015).Trauma and violence.https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence go back up


1. Social and Emotional Development is Important
(The Making of You)
2. How Social-Emotional Learning Benefits Everyone | Caige Jambor | TEDxBemidji
(TEDx Talks)
3. How to Test Your Emotional Maturity
(The School of Life)
4. What Is Social-Emotional Development?
5. Practical Strategies for Teaching Social Emotional Skills
(Pyramid Model)
6. Teen Emotional Development
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Mr. See Jast

Last Updated: 02/16/2023

Views: 5580

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mr. See Jast

Birthday: 1999-07-30

Address: 8409 Megan Mountain, New Mathew, MT 44997-8193

Phone: +5023589614038

Job: Chief Executive

Hobby: Leather crafting, Flag Football, Candle making, Flying, Poi, Gunsmithing, Swimming

Introduction: My name is Mr. See Jast, I am a open, jolly, gorgeous, courageous, inexpensive, friendly, homely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.