Health Library

 

Cognitive Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years

Topic Overview

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.

Most teens 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 valid.

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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised April 6, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

First Nurse

First Nurse

Call First Nurse 24 Hours a Day for free health care advice, resources and referrals!

Ames: 515-239-6877
In Iowa: 800-524-6877 

Search health information online in our Mulimedia Health Library.

High Quality Care

Guardian of Excellence

Mary Greeley consistently delivers high quality patient care.

  • 2013 Guardian of Excellence Award for Clinical Quality
  • Grade 'A' Patient Safety from the Leapfrog Group
  • 2013 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures ranking from The Joint Commission
  • Highest percentage bonus of any Iowa hospital in Medicare's quality incentive program

Mary Greeley on Facebook

Like us on Facebook

Patient Privacy | Net Learning for Employees | MGMC PACS for Physicians
Emergency Preparedness

1111 Duff Avenue Ames, IA 50010 - 515-239-2011 - yourhealth.mgmc@mgmc.com

©2014 Mary Greeley Medical Center - All rights reserved.