Adolescence Concepts Essay Ideas

Interpreting analytical results, and integrating them with other concerns, requires deliberative processes. These can create communities of concern and shared understandings (including focused disagreements) among those concerned about adolescents.


As a society and as individuals, we face challenges and opportunities in providing a better future for our adolescents. The papers and discussions of this workshop have, we hope, advanced our point of departure for the work that lies ahead in setting and acting on priorities.


Biehl, M., & Halpern-Felsher, B. L. (2001). Adolescents’ and adults’ understanding of probability expressions. Journal of Adolescent Health28(1), 30-35.

Blum, R. W., Beuhring, T., Shew, M. L., Bearinger, L. H., Sieving, R. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2000). The effects of race/ethnicity, income, and family structure on adolescent risk behaviors. American Journal of Public Health90(12), 1879-1885.

Burt, M. R. (1998, September 16). Reasons to invest in adolescents. Paper prepared for the Health Futures of Youth II: Pathways to Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Burt, M. R., & Levy, F. (1987). Estimates of public costs for teenage childbearing: A review of recent studies and estimates of 1985 public costs. In S. L. Hofferth and C. D. Hayes (Eds.), Risking the future: Adolescent sexuality, pregnancy, and childbearing, Vol. II, Working papers and statistical appendices (pp. 264-293). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Cohen, M. A. (1998). The monetary value of saving a high-risk youth. Journal of Quantitative Criminology,14(1), 5-7.

Danziger, S., & Waldfogel, J. (Eds.). (2000). Securing the future: Investing in children from birth to college. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Fischhoff, B. (1996). The real world: What good is it? Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,65, 232-248.

Fischhoff, B., Downs, J., & De Bruin, W. B. (1998). Adolescent vulnerability: A framework for behavioral interventions. Applied & Preventive Psychology,7, 77-94.

Fischhoff, B., Parker, A. M., De Bruin, W. B., Downs, J., Palmgren, C., Daws, R., & Manski, C. (2000). Teen expectations for significant life events. Public Opinion Quarterly,64, 189-205

Halpern-Felsher, B. L., Millstein, S. G., Ellen, J. M., Adler, N. E., Tschann, J. M., & Biehl, M. (2001). The role of behavioral experience in judging risks. Health Psychology,20, 120-126.

Cognitive Development

What is cognitive development?

Cognitive development refers to the development of the ability to think and reason. Children (6 to 12 years old) develop the ability to think in concrete ways (concrete operations), such as how to combine (addition), separate (subtract or divide), order (alphabetize and sort), and transform (change things such as 5 pennies=1 nickel) objects and actions. They are called concrete because they are performed in the presence of the objects and events being thought about.

Adolescence marks the beginning development of more complex thinking processes (also called formal logical operations) including abstract thinking (thinking about possibilities), the ability to reason from known principles (form own new ideas or questions), the ability to consider many points of view according to varying criteria (compare or debate ideas or opinions), and the ability to think about the process of thinking.

What cognitive developmental changes occur during adolescence?

During adolescence (between 12 and 18 years of age), the developing teenager acquires the ability to think systematically about all logical relationships within a problem. The transition from concrete thinking to formal logical operations occurs over time. Each adolescent progresses at varying rates in developing his or her ability to think in more complex ways. Each adolescent develops his or her own view of the world. Some adolescents may be able to apply logical operations to school work long before they are able to apply them to personal dilemmas. When emotional issues arise, they often interfere with an adolescent's ability to think in more complex ways. The ability to consider possibilities, as well as facts, may influence decision-making, in either positive or negative ways.

Some common indicators indicating a progression from more simple to more complex cognitive development include the following:

  • Early adolescence. During early adolescence, the use of more complex thinking is focused on personal decision making in school and home environments, including the following:

    • The early adolescent begins to demonstrate use of formal logical operations in schoolwork.

    • The early adolescent begins to question authority and society standards.

    • The early adolescent begins to form and verbalize his or her own thoughts and views on a variety of topics, usually more related to his or her own life, such as:

      • Which sports are better to play

      • Which groups are better to be included in

      • What personal appearances are desirable or attractive

      • What parental rules should be changed

  • Middle adolescence. With some experience in using more complex thinking processes, the focus of middle adolescence often expands to include more philosophical and futuristic concerns, including the following:

    • The middle adolescent often questions more extensively.

    • The middle adolescent often analyzes more extensively.

    • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to form his or her own code of ethics (for example, What do I think is right?).

    • The middle adolescent thinks about different possibilities and begins to develop own identity (for example, Who am I?).

    • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to systematically consider possible future goals (for example, What do I want?).

    • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to make his or her own plans.

    • The middle adolescent begins to think long-term.

    • The middle adolescent's use of systematic thinking begins to influence relationships with others.

  • Late adolescence. During late adolescence, complex thinking processes are used to focus on less self-centered concepts as well as personal decision-making, including the following:

    • The late adolescent has increased thoughts about more global concepts such as justice, history, politics, and patriotism.

    • The late adolescent often develops idealistic views on specific topics or concerns.

    • The late adolescent may debate and develop intolerance of opposing views.

    • The late adolescent begins to focus thinking on making career decisions.

    • The late adolescent begins to focus thinking on emerging role in adult society.

What encourages healthy cognitive development during adolescence?

The following suggestions will help to encourage positive and healthy cognitive development in the adolescent:

  • Include adolescents in discussions about a variety of topics, issues, and current events.

  • Encourage adolescents to share ideas and thoughts with you.

  • Encourage adolescents to think independently and develop their own ideas.

  • Assist adolescents in setting their own goals.

  • Stimulate adolescents to think about possibilities for the future.

  • Compliment and praise adolescents for well-thought-out decisions.

  • Assist adolescents in re-evaluating poorly made decisions for themselves.

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