7 Psychosocial Changes in Adolescents (Explained)

7 Psychosocial Changes in Adolescents (Explained)

These are the characteristic psychosocial changes in adolescents; let’s see how they affect them.

Adolescence is a turbulent and turbulent period, something that popular culture has very internalized. It is inevitable to think of an adolescent as that emotionally unstable person who is in a deep but uncertain search for his identity.


That is a fairly close description of adolescence, but incomplete, since the changes that occur at puberty are varied and not only involve the emotional aspect, but also the cognitive and social one.

Next, we are going to explore what are the psychosocial changes in adolescents and what consequences they can have in their lives. Keep reading if you want to discover them.

What are the psychosocial changes in adolescence?

Psychosocial changes in adolescents are all those variations that occur in the way of thinking, feeling, and relating to society that are experienced when entering the stage of puberty.


Adolescence is a period of many transformations that are evident in the physical and psychological development of the individual. Because these changes are so sudden and disconcerting, adolescents often feel confused and even scared by the new experiences they are having.


One of the leading scholars on the changes that occur throughout development, not only in adolescence but throughout people’s lives, is the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson.

Thanks to his work, we know in greater depth what happens during adolescence from a psychosocial perspective, although it is worth mentioning that his findings are quite old and that discoveries have been made about this stage since then.


Next, we are going to talk in-depth about what are the psychosocial changes that adolescents go through during this very turbulent period of their lives. Generally, these changes can be divided into three broad categories: cognitive, emotional, and social.


Cognitive changes

Adolescence is the period of development of people where, according to the theory of cognitive development of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the last stage of his model is reached: the stage of formal operations. At this point, the adolescent acquires some advanced mental capacities, definitively separating him from childhood.


One of the most notable is the ability to reason abstractly. As teens approach twelve years of age, they can effectively reflect on items that are not in the here and now. This capacity so natural in adulthood is something that, although it does exist at previous ages, is more modest in childhood. Abstract reasoning is one of the most important abilities not only in adolescence but also in adult life.

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Another of the most significant cognitive advancements is the ability to use logic more accurately and independently of your desires and feelings. Before the age of twelve, children get more carried away by their emotions and find it difficult to keep a cool mind and act rationally. At puberty, cognitive abilities increase noticeably, although it may not seem like it since, also, it overlaps with the emotional instability typical of these ages.


Finally, it should be mentioned that adolescents are also beginning to be able to use skills such as deduction well. Due to this and the other two skills that we have discussed, it is common that in adolescence new interests begin to emerge related to aspects such as morals, ethics, or what role they have in the world.

Emotional changes

One of the most well-known facts of adolescence is that hormones take over the body, inducing a highly varied mood.

Added to this, there is the fact that the adolescent changes his educational stage, going on to study at the institute, a place where, when interacting with other adolescents, can be the scene of multiple conflicts and tensions. All this is the perfect cocktail so that the emotions of the adolescent are on the surface, feeling them in a much more pronounced way than when they were children.


Among these emotional changes we can highlight:

Emotional instability

It is well known that one of the most remarkable features of adolescence is its multiple mood swings. The adolescent mood is very, very variable. Young people of these ages can go from one extreme to the other in a very short time.


It is not unusual for a boy to get up in high spirits, only to become a little low at lunchtime and, when night comes, he is pensive and taciturn. In other cases, the mood varies over days, going through sad times and times of joy with no apparent significant cause.

Acquisition of empathy

Without trying to generalize too much, boys and girls tend to be self-centered. The reason for this is that they find it possible to understand and interpret the emotions of others, and to put themselves in their shoes.

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However, in adolescence, boys and girls develop a certain empathy, although they do not necessarily show it. Most adolescents can understand the effects of their actions on others much more effectively than when they were children.

Insecurities and feelings of uncertainty

Adolescents experience puberty as a very uncertain period both hormonally and socially and emotionally. This causes them, to not know what will happen next and not be very clear about their role in life, they have a constant feeling of insecurity.


In turn, insecurity causes changes to be perceived as more threatening and confusing than they are, which means that the child can fall into a loop of negative emotions experienced in a very intense way. Fortunately, it is a matter of time before you acquire a feeling of greater control of the situation, insecurity vanishing as you mature.

Social changes

Finally, we can comment that adolescents go through a series of changes related to their role in the world and the way they interact with others. Among the most notable social changes we have:

Search for own identity

Before the age of twelve, identity is an aspect little thought about by boys and girls. They may identify with labels concerning their gender, cultural or family identity, but they don’t think too much about it. However, once puberty begins, identity becomes an object of much reflection on the part of the adolescent, so much so that we could say that they become obsessed.


The adolescent tries to find himself, define who he is, build an identity that differentiates him from others, something that makes him unique. That is why at these ages new experiences are tried, assuming signs of identity such as those shared by some urban tribe. Generally, these behaviors are temporary and are not a problem, and with time, they will shape both their personality and their own identity.

Desire for independence

During childhood, you are completely dependent on your parents to do everything. At the beginning of adolescence this changes, as a result of the fact that the adolescent is already able to do more things on his own and, in addition, he wants to completely get rid of the dependency on his parents.


It is at these ages that the desire to become a more autonomous person begins, something that is evidenced both by doing more things on his own and by his aggressive attitude, even arguing with the parents so that they are not over him for so long.

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This is not something to worry about at first. It is normal for adolescents to exhibit challenging behaviors and have some quarrels with their parents, although if they suppose a serious alteration in family life, they should go to a psychologist specialized in adolescence to evaluate the possibility of a mental health problem or disorder.

Identity and sexual orientation

One of the most relevant changes in puberty is everything that has to do with sex and intimate relationships. Hormones, as we have mentioned, take control of the body and it is almost inevitable that certain physiological reactions occur linked to a series of very powerful emotions that lead adolescents to change their interests and ways of acting, thinking a lot about sex.


For this reason, it is normal that it is in adolescence that one realizes what his sexuality is since it is in this period when the sexual awakening occurs. Boys and girls who are exclusively interested in people of the opposite gender will discover that they are heterosexual, while if they are interested in the same gender then they will find that they are homosexual. If they like both boys and girls, then they are bisexual.


Although much progress has been made in terms of accepting sexual orientation, today many gay adolescents fear that, when they come out of the closet, they will be socially and family rejected. Even in the more open-minded institutes, it is common for homophobic behaviors to occur among peers, attacking homosexual or bisexual boys who have not even disclosed their sexuality because they still have doubts about what attracts them.


Nor should we ignore the reality of asexual people. Unlike heteros, gays, and bisexuals, asexual people do not feel sexual attraction, being able to consider both the absence of sexual attraction as a variation of the other orientations but in which there is no sexual desire.


Since they are still a very little visible group, asexual adolescents, far from understanding that they are, may think that they have an arousal problem or that there is something wrong with them. That is why sex education and explaining all sexual realities are so important.


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