Apr 27, 2018, 10:27:12 AM CDT Feb 22, 2023, 4:46:46 PM CST

Wellness by age: 15 – 16 years

See common physical, social and cognitive milestones for 15- and 16-year-olds


At 15 and 16 years of age, you and your “child” are firmly ensconced in the teenage years – and it can come with some challenges. It’s more and more important for your teen to establish a solid sense of independence, but you may find it hard to let go.

Watch for these developmental checkpoints, and remember that not all teens will reach milestones at exactly the same rate. See where you can say, “My 15- or 16- year- old….”

Developmental milestones for 15- and 16-year-olds


  • Seems to have moved through the main physical signs of puberty
  • Is generally becoming more agile
  • Girl needs help with the mood swings of PMS
  • Boy is having voice changes

Language and communication

  • Is more abrasive, maybe downright rude, when talking
  • May actually be less communicative
  • Seems to love arguing

Social and emotional skills

  • Is seeking “a cause”
  • Is part of teams or cliques (or wants to be)
  • Regularly sulks
  • Is developing a better sense of caring for others
  • Shows more signs of sexual interest

Cognitive skills

  • Has very definite methods for studying
  • Is planning for future school/work options
  • Is better able to reason out a course of action and explain it clearly
  • Has become more emphatic in expressing opinions

Your more active role

There are ways you can take a more active role in your 15- or 16- year-old’s life as he or she reaches these developmental milestones.

Here are a few ways you can help encourage your teenager’s continued solid development:

  • Remember that 1 in 10 high school teens drinks and drives, but research shows that parental involvement helps reduce the possibility. Get advice from school counselors, doctors or other experts.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and suggest double-dating. Also know their parents. That way you can all “watch out” for each other’s kids, especially at parties.
  • Emphasize the difference between dating and sex. If you’re uncomfortable discussing sex, get your teen’s doctor or another counselor to help.
  • Take an active part in your teen’s activities, whether you’re shouting from the sidelines, or watching them perform in the orchestra.
  • When teenagers are self-conscious (“I’m not pretty,” “I don’t fit in”) don’t dismiss those concerns. Find ways to discuss them.
  • Look for disturbing eating signs, like anorexia and bulimia, in your 15- and 16-year-old, especially girls. Sometimes their doctor or (if available) a school dietitian can help.
  • Understand your young teen’s need to be part of the crowd. Maybe you don’t like the new haircut, or nose ring, but consider whether it’s really important to fight over.
  • Make sure you understand your teen’s access to technology -- like cell phones, blogging and video games – and establish safe parameters for your teen’s use of these items. Watch for online bullying, by or against your teen.

There are many more resources that can help you navigate your teenager’s development. Talk with your child’s pediatrician and consult specialists, if needed, for more help.

See developmental milestones for other ages:

Learn more

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behavior, cognitive, development, social skills, teenager

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