Relationship Development

Teens: Relationship Development

Changes in a teen’s physical and
thinking development come with big changes in their relationships with family and
friends.
Family relationships are often reorganized during puberty. Teens want more independence
and
more emotional distance between them and their parents. A teen’s focus often shifts
to
social interactions and friendships. This includes same-gender friends, same-gender
groups
of friends, and cross-gender groups of friends. Sexual maturity triggers interest
in
dating and sexual relationships.

Changes in relationship with self

During the teen years, a new
understanding of one’s self occurs. This may include changes in these self-concepts:

Independence

This means making decisions for one’s self and acting on one’s own thought processes
and judgment. Teens start to learn to work out problems on their own. As teens
develop more reasoning and intuitive abilities, they start to face new
responsibilities. They start to enjoy their own thoughts and actions. Teens also
start to have thoughts and fantasies about their future and adult life (for instance,
college or job training, work, and marriage).

Identity

This is defined as a sense of self or one’s personality. One of the key tasks of
adolescence is to reach a sense of a personal identity and a secure sense of self.
A
teen gets comfortable with, and accepts, a more mature physical body. They also learn
to use their own judgment, and make decisions on their own. As these things happen,
the teen addresses their own problems and starts to develop a concept of themselves.
Trouble developing a clear concept of self or identity occurs when a teen can’t
resolve struggles about who they are as a physical, sexual, and independent
person.

Self-esteem

This is how you feel about yourself. Self-esteem is determined by answering the
question “How much do I like myself?” With the start of adolescence, a decrease in
self-esteem is somewhat common. This is due to the many body changes, new thoughts,
and new ways of thinking about things. Teens are more thoughtful about who they are
and who they want to be. They notice differences in the way they act and the way they
think they should act. Once teens start thinking about their actions and
characteristics, they are faced with how they judge themselves. Many teens place
importance on attractiveness. When teens don’t think they are attractive, it often
causes poor self-esteem. Typically, self-esteem increases as teens develop a better
sense of who they are.

Changes in peer relationships

Teens spend more time with friends. They report feeling more understood and accepted
by their friends. Less and less time is spent with parents and other family members.

Close friendships tend to develop
between teens with similar interests, social class, and ethnic backgrounds. While
childhood friendships tend to be based on common activities, teen friendships expand
to
include similarities in attitudes, values, and shared activities. Teen friendships
also
tend to be based on educational interests. Especially for girls, close, intimate,
self-disclosing conversations with friends help to explore identities and define one’s
sense of self. Conversations within these important friendships also help teens explore
their sexuality and how they feel about it. Teen boys’ friendships are often less
intimate than those of girls. Boys are more likely to have a group of friends who
confirm each other’s worth through actions and deeds rather than personal sharing.

Changes in male-female relationships

The shift to male-female and sexual
relationships is influenced by sexual interest and by social and cultural influences
and
expectations. Social and cultural expectations and behaviors in male-female or sexual
relationships are learned from observations and practice. During adolescence,
developmental tasks include struggles to gain control over sexual and aggressive urges.
Discovering possible or actual love relationships also occurs. Sexual behaviors during
adolescence may include impulsive behavior, a wide range of experimental interactions
of
mutual exploring, and eventually intercourse. Biological differences, and differences
in
the ways males and females socialize, set the stage for males and females to have
different expectations of sexual and love relationships. These may influence sexual
experiences and may also have consequences for later sexual behavior and partnerships.
In time, having a mutually satisfying sexual partnership within a love relationship
may
be found.

Changes in family relationships

One of the developmental tasks of
adolescence is to separate from one’s family as one becomes an independent young adult.
A part of this process is coming to terms with specific feelings about one’s family.
During adolescence, teens start to realize that their parents and key authority figures
don’t know everything or have solutions to all types of struggles. Some teen rebellion
against parents is common and normal. Over time, disagreements often decrease. But
relationships with mothers tend to change more than with fathers. As adolescents
become
more independent from their parents, they are more likely to turn to their peers for
advice.