Teen Mental Health: Exploring Normal Adolescent Development – Part Two

In this series, indicators of normal adolescence are provided for parents and teens. It’s important to have a measure upon which to determine whether a teen is experiencing mental illness or exhibiting behaviors that are of concern. Using the information below, parents and caregivers can determine whether there is need for professional assistance, such as teen mental health treatment.

The first article began with exploring normal parts of development for early adolescence. This article completes that list, and the final article of this series will include developmental information for late adolescence.



Because the adolescent brain is still developing, it is recommended that a teen not be left to make a decision about sexual activity on his or her own. It is not until their mid-twenties that a young adult’s brain comes to full development and appropriate, mature decisions can be made. For this reason, it is worthwhile to have a conversation with adolescents about sex, especially if there is any indication that he or she is expressing interest in becoming sexually active.

A parent might facilitate better decision making by asking questions, setting boundaries, and encouraging their teen to spend time with groups of friends versus one person at a time. Examples of boundary setting might be prohibiting a teen’s attendance to parties without parents, encouraging the avoidance of private places to make out, and role playing to develop responses that will work in order to curtail an intimate experience.

During early adolescence, teens may exhibit the following in regards to sexuality:

  • Shyness, blushing, and modesty
  • Girls develop physically sooner than boys
  • Increased interest in sex
  • Movement toward heterosexuality with fears of homosexuality
  • Concerns regarding physical and sexual attractiveness to others
  • Frequently changing relationships
  • Worries about being normal


Morals, Values, and Self-Direction

Depending on a teen’s, family, education, political environment, he or she will have an opportunity to explore morals and values that are important to them and that might drive their life direction. In some cases, values and morals might be decided for them and teens will adopt these without question. For these adolescents it might not be until later in life that they have the chance to differentiate the values given to them and those that are unique to them.

However, if a teen has the opportunity to explore, he or she might exhibit the following:

  • Rule and limit testing
  • Capacity for abstract thought
  • Development of ideals and selection of role models
  • More consistent evidence of conscience
  • Experimentation with sex and drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana)

Of course, each adolescent is different and the above indicators may vary slightly from teen to teen. Also, what’s listed here might not fully describe what you’re seeing in your teen; this list is meant to provide a general picture to gauge what is normal and what’s not. If you are concerned about your teen, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional.

Lastly, the final article of this series will cover the same developmental changes just discussed for early adolescence and apply them to teens moving through late adolescence.