tweens_569x309.jpgBelow is a brief summary of some key milestones for youth aged 12-14 outlined in the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Service’s Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development.


It's important to note that while these milestones represent what is common for kids in this age group, a child's development is also affected by individual factors. Some kids will reach milestones at an early age, while others may need more time to develop, and some may not reach that milestone at all.


Visit the Ministry’s website to read the resource in its entirety.


Cognitive Development:
  • Dramatic changes in the brain continue;
  • Brain function becomes increasingly efficient and specialized;
  • By the onset of puberty the human brain has reached adult size;
  • Once the brain has reached its full size, the amount of grey matter (neurons or brain cells) begins to decrease as neurons are eliminated in a ‘use it or lose it’ process;
  • The amount of white matter (myelin and axons) begins to increase;
  • These changes result in an increasing ability to process complex information and learn new concepts;
  • Processing speed (how quickly new information is absorbed) increases.


Emotional Development:
  • Adolescents often feel emotions more intensely, are more sensitive to pleasure and reward and are particularly vulnerable to stress;
  • Can be more likely to participate in risky behaviour;
  • The adolescent’s capacity for self-regulation and for decision making lags behind the ability to feel emotions;
  • The ability to feel empathy for another person begins to move beyond the rudimentary form which began in childhood;
  • Motivation for behavior begins to become more intrinsic (as a result of interests or desires) and less extrinsic (desire to gain rewards or avoid punishments).


Social Development:
  • A sense of self-identity begins to develop (may include many components, including gender identity, social group identity, and spiritual identity);
  • Self-concepts developed in childhood (I am Canadian, I have a dog, etc.) become more abstract and specific to the individual in early adolescence (I am a leader, I am ambitious, etc.);
  • A person’s ability to self-appraise begins to improve (they become more realistic) and they begin to engage in social comparison; this can result, particularly among girls, in becoming less certain of their ability to achieve their goals;
  • Self-esteem begins to decrease in early adolescence (particularly among girls) and often continues to decline into adulthood at which point it rises again on an upward trend into old age;
  • Early adolescents (particularly those from minority groups) begin to show an increase in social group-esteem (show increasing pride in belonging to their social group);
  • An interest in romantic relationships begins to emerge along with passionate feelings; they may begin to form mixed-gender friendship groups (time spent with romantic interests usually happens in group settings);
  • Relationships with parents may start to suffer as adolescents choose to spend more time with their friends and find themselves more often in conflict with their parents.


Physical Development:
  • Adolescents will notice changes in their cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility, all depending largely on their levels of physical activity; in general there is a decline in physical activity beginning around age 13 and continuing into adulthood;
  • Puberty affects sleep patterns, often causes young people to feel wide awake and alert until late at night and have difficulty getting up in the morning, often resulting in sleep deprivation;
  • Boys typically have a growth spurt at around age 12 (girls at age 10);
  • These changes to body and mind have significant impact on how young people feel about the appearance of their body (females, whose body mass tends to increase during puberty, may develop negative body image, affecting mood, eating habits and mental well-being; males, on the other hand, put on muscle mass, start to develop a masculine shape and generally become more satisfied with their physical appearance);
  • Caloric intake, especially around a growth spurt, can skyrocket. The body’s need for protein and calcium to build muscle and bones also increase.