12- to 14-year-olds: Ages and stages of youth development

Understanding the different stages of youth development supports youth programming efforts as it encourages relationship building between youth and adult volunteers.

A room full of young teens can be energizing or terrifying to youth workers or volunteers. Young teens, ages 12 to 14, are at the prime age to engage them in leadership roles and give them a voice in decision making. Looking at Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Guiding Principles shows the impact of having youth actively engaged in their development. Under this principle, youth are considered participants – rather than recipients – in the learning process; youth in this age bracket are at a wonderful age to being exploring these principles. Youth ages 12 to 14 want to feel ownership for projects; involving them in the planning results in buy-in and commitment from them.

Much like the two previous articles looking at the characteristics and implications of working with 6- to 8-year-olds and 9- to 11-year-olds, this article considers 12- to 14-year-olds’ physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.

For a point of reference, physical development refers to the growth of the body and development of motor skills. Social development is the interaction between children and their ability to function in social settings. Emotional development looks at how youth handle their feelings and express them. Finally, intellectual development is all about how individuals learn.

Youth in the age range of 12 to 14 are developing in the following ways:

Physical

Social

Emotional

Intellectual


Implications for working with this age group:

Physical

Social

Emotional

Intellectual

In working with this age bracket, adults must have open communication with them! They are growing both physically and emotionally at rapid paces and need individuals who will be open and honest with them. This is the age bracket many adults shy away from because of tweens’ need to pull away from an adult and establish independence. Stay with the tween; get to know them as an individual and learn to understand and appreciate them for who they are, not just as part of the group.

For further information about the growth and development of youth between the ages of 12 to 14 year olds, you can contact Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development professionals. The next article in the series explores the teenage years.