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By age 16, most teens are developing the ability to think
abstractly, deal with several concepts at the same time, and imagine the future
consequences of their actions. This type of thinking in a logical sequence
continues to develop into adulthood.
Also by age 16, teens can
learn to process more complex problems, to develop and test theories, to
understand analogies, to reason inductively and deductively, and to think
inferentially. They are better able to handle a more demanding high school
curriculum because their memory and organizational abilities—such as time
management, test preparation, and study skills—improve. Written and spoken
language become more and more sophisticated. They may also begin to grasp
political, moral, social, and philosophical concepts.
know the right thing to do. But their self-centered thoughts and behaviors may
sway them to act with little thought about the end result. Bit by bit, their
moral sense continues to evolve.
Sometimes teens grow a bit
arrogant with their newfound mental abilities, and some parents complain that
their teens "know everything." It can sometimes be difficult to deal with teens
during this time because although they understand that others have differing
viewpoints, they often firmly believe their own perception is the most true or
Even though teens are forming adult cognitive abilities,
they still do not have the life experiences to guide them in making the best
choices. Indeed, adults struggle with this, too. They may reason that focusing
on getting good grades in high school may further their academic future, but
they might choose to spend their time working or socializing.
Researchers theorize that a teen's experiences determine, to a large
degree, which connections in the brain are made stronger and which are
"pruned," a sort of "use it or lose it" process. Researchers suggest that
teens' accomplishments in sports or academics, for example, may positively
affect the way they think for the rest of their lives. Advanced mental
development may be the result of dramatic brain growth during puberty and then
a refining process seen in the late teen years.
April 6, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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