Child Development of the 15-18 Year Old



♥  Do not like parents to interfere with their independence
♥  May experience sadness or depression. Tip: if these symptoms occur for longer than two weeks, contact your child’s doctor or seek counseling
for your child.
♥  Common to see them purposefully change hygiene routines, change the style of their dress or look in an effort to assert their independence
♥  Conflict increases with parents at age 15 and gets better around 17 & 18
♥  Relationships with siblings may be better than with parents
♥  Although they hide it well, love and acceptance are desired from their parents
♥  Begins to see parents as people versus enforcers of the rules
♥  May have an interest in keeping a diary to express thoughts, emotions and experiences
♥  Feelings of being invincible continue.  The risk of experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and/or sex increases dramatically and their ability to accurately identify cause and effect in these situations is poor.
♥  Very concerned with their physical appearance – be aware of possible eating problems that may arise from trying to maintain an ideal body image.
Tip: contact your child’s doctor if you feel that body image and/or eating problems are present.
♥  Friends are extremely important.  Adolescents normally choose the support of their peers over their parents.
♥  Usually has many friends, with one or two best friends
♥  A falling out with a friend may result in depression
♥  Their own sexuality and sexual feelings they have for others are considered.  Dating and romantic relationships are common.
♥  Affection is usually shown to those the adolescent is attracted to – relationships tend to change frequently
♥  Willingness to make responsible decisions increases with age
♥  Better able to resolve conflicts peacefully


♥  Begins to regularly see that present actions may have an impact on their future
♥  Interest in choosing a future career
♥  Needs guidance to plan future life decisions
♥  Has a good sense of right and wrong
♥  Able to form alternate solutions to a problem
♥  Tends to make impulsive decisions despite having the knowledge and ability to make wise choices
♥  Is able to use logic regularly in conversations and when thinking through a problem or decision
♥  Willingness to listen to another person’s point of view and to process and accept their opinion

Physical Development

♥  Motor skills are intact, however growth spurts may result in some lack of coordination or clumsiness
♥  Exercise helps to improve strength and coordination
♥  Girls develop on average two years before boys
♥  Girls’ bodies change (fat distribution in buttocks, legs, and stomach increases;  hips widen;  pubic hair grows;  start of menses;
breasts begin to develop)
♥  Boys’ bodies change (voice changes; testicles, scrotum, and penis enlarge;  pubic hair grows; rapid growth in weight and height;
muscles fill out; body hair increases; ejaculation and night time emissions occur)
♥  May try masturbation
♥  Sexual desires and fantasies are present and increase
♥  Always hungry
♥  Need for sleep may increase
♥  Oily skin and sweat increase – acne may be a problem

Wondering how to use positive discipline and consequences with the 15-18 year old? Visit our age-based discipline page for guidelines and things to consider.

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