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Social and Emotional Development: Your 18-Year-Old Teen

An In-Depth Look at Your 18-year-old Teen's Social and Emotional Development


Updated June 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Quick Links: Your 18-Year-Old Teen

Social and Emotional Development in Teens: 13-Year-Old Teen | 14-Year-Old Teen | 15-Year-Old Teen | 16-Year-Old Teen | 17-Year-Old Teen

The 18-year-old teen is on an identity quest into their future. They want to figure out where they will fit in today's world. It is a time for big change that comes with a lot of freedom and happiness, along with feelings of nostalgia and apprehension. The 18-year-old is often idealistic and enthusiastic about their future goals.

As this is the first year as a legal adult, the teen comes into their 18th year in a whirlwind that was childhood and tends to come out of it more stable with some established independence and more of the experienced life skills they need as a young adult. After 18-year-old teens are are on their own more - past high school graduation and on to the next step - they tend to be more cooperative and understanding of others, including their parents.

Peer Groups Become Less Influential

Socially, the 18-year-old has had intimate relationships and is aware of their sexuality. They have kept one or two close friends from their high school peer group but don't have as much of a problem with peer pressure, since they are more able to assert their independence.

While peer groups have less pull on an 18-year-old, the teen may be very influenced by their close friends or a relationship with the opposite sex. They have an emerging ability to make independent decisions and to compromise. This serves them well as they are forming new friendships and intimate relationships. As boys and girls are looking to their future, they are beginning to look at aspects in the opposite sex that they may want in their future mates - even if they aren't "ready to settle down."

The Future Is Here for the 18-Year-Old Teenager

The teen who has set goals and worked on life skills will be looking forward to moving on with their future plans. They show self-confidence and pride in what they have already accomplished - like obtaining their high school diploma. They are enthusiastic about their next step and tend to go after it with an idealistic and energetic gusto. This can cause some turmoil if the teen is not taking in the whole picture and also assuming the responsibilities of being a young adult.

While they are enjoying independence, they recognize that parents have experiences and insight into what they may need to succeed. Therefore, you will find your 18-year-old-teen asking you questions and listening to your answers. Whether they choose to take your advice or not they are paying more attention to what you have to say. Parents often enjoy this time with their teen, which makes a lot of happy feelings in the family.

The teen who has chosen to enter the work world from high school tends to mature very quickly, as they get a good look at the reality of working, the cost of living and all of the responsibilities that come with it. This 18-year-old may become angry about the harshness of their lot in life or they may gain some resilience through the experience and begin making better life goals.

This is also a time of pride for parents. After raising your child you have come to the ultimate milestone and survived successfully. While there may be heartstrings pulled during your teen's transition into young adulthood, keep your focus on their success and try not to burden them with any sadness you may feel, as this can cause some guilt in the teen. Parenting, when done well, is a job we work ourselves out of. Take pride in what you have accomplished as well as your teen's accomplishments.

Worried That You 18-year-old Teen's Development Isn't Normal?

Many parents of 18-year-old teens worry that their social and emotional development is too fast or not fast enough. Or parents start to see warning signs of substance abuse or signs of mental health problems as adolescence is often the time social and emotional problems surface. If this is true for your teen, seek help right away.

Social and Emotional Development in Teens: 13-Year-Old Teen | 14-Year-Old Teen | 15-Year-Old Teen | 16-Year-Old Teen | 17-Year-Old Teen

Quick Links: Your 18-Year-Old Teen

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