three sisters one adopted from Thailand smiling with arms around each other

Adolescent Development (14 to 18 Years)

From 14 to 18 years old, children enter adolescence. During this period, children have already grown considerably, yet their physical growth and other transitions continue.

Transitions can occur in their independence, social status and self-identity. Because all areas of adolescent development are connected and influenced by one another, it is important to view their development holistically, especially those who have been adopted. When working to support children 14 to 18 years old, it is critical to consider all areas of development. 

Here are the 6 key areas of adolescent development:

  • Adaptive skills. Adaptive skills are a child’s daily routine functions, such as eating, sleeping and cleaning. When an older child in adolescence begins to prepare their own meals, makes independent meal choices or assists with household chores, they are showing progression in their adaptive skills 
  • Communication skills. Communication is defined as connecting by sharing thoughts and feelings. In adolscence, this can be observed when one begins to become more interested in aligning with their peers, perceives feelings or emotions of others around them and deliberately articulates how they feel in conversation or self-identification. During this period, communication is crucial to adolescents for exploring who they are and the peers they enjoy socializing with. 
  • Fine and gross motor skills. Fine and gross motor skills include the physical movement of a child. For a child between 14 and 18 years old, fine motor skills will have mostly developed in relation to feeding. At this time, adolescents will be developing motor skills through activities such as competitive sports, learning to drive a vehicle or playing musical instruments. 
little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

Check out additional parenting resources!

View our expanded list of recommended parenting websites, books and other resources organized by topic.

  • Cognitive skills. Cognitive skills exemplify a child’s brain working on reasoning and awareness of themselves and the world around them. Adolescents exemplify progression in their cognitive skills when they find their interests in school, begin to think of the future when they become adults and begin to practice better judgement in situations rather than being quick to respond or being impulsive. 
  • Social-emotional skills. Social-emotional skills are learned through interaction and relationships. In children between 14 and 18 years old, this can look like developing multiple friendships from different social circles, becoming more self-aware and being able to understand multiple points of view. In addition, adolescents may begin to become more interested in dating their peers and exploring more intimate romantic relationships.  
  • Nutritional needs. During adolescence, children have different nutritional needs based on their age, gender and time of development. Typically, adolescents will have grown much and require a much higher caloric total as compared to their preadolescent selves. In addition, growth during adolescence can be very rapid, so proper nutrition through macronutrients and micronutrients is vital. For example, protein, iron and folate-rich foods are important for adolescent girls as they are more prone to iron-deficiency anemia.  

Holistic View of Adolescent Development

To look at something holistically means to not only see the individual parts but how they work together. The key areas of adolescent development acquire must be viewed holistically. All areas of development are connected and influenced by one another. By understanding these basic milestones of development and how they work together, caregivers can more easily identify when development is going well and when there may be a problem.

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

Receive Post Adoption Coaching & Education

All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

Stories Up Next

All Stories