Your 5 Minute Guide to Typical 14-year-old Development

Nov 29, 2021

by Camille Everett

Creator of Be That Place

Handwritten notes and lunchtime chats from students kickstarted Camille's mission to help families teach sex ed at home. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a bachelor’s in Secondary Health & English Education. She loves having real conversations while devouring bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Teen drawing "Pedro for President" on the back of a boy's t-shirt.

Fourteen-year-olds are awesome. They are energetic, funny and creative. They invest enormous amounts of time and energy into creating a subculture and collective identity with groups of peers. 

Generally more concerned with how others see them than how they see themselves, fourteen-year-olds are also developing a strong sense of personal identity. They are loyal, curious, ambitious and easily embarrassed. 1

They are in the beginning stages of defining themselves as young adults. 

14-year-old development


  • Are usually more concerned with how others see them than how they see themselves.
  • Refine the role of loyalty and devotion in their life by applying it to various situations — loyalty to friends, devotion to an extracurricular activity like music or sports, or allegiance to a specific music group or idol.
  • Are developing a strong sense of commitment and responsibility — the school environment and its structure contributes strongly to this.
  • See themselves as separate, more adult-like individuals which means they want more freedom to do things their own way.
  • Tend to push parents away as they create strong personal identities but also really want a strong connection with their parents to know that they are safe.
  • Are often embarrassed to be seen with their parents and are critical of their parents’ lack of coolness with appearance, interactions, and ideas.
  • Want to connect with parents as parents genuinely listen to them and respect their ability to make decisions.
  • Respond well to negotiation — listening to their input to make adjustments to responsibilities, curfews, and other activities increases their freedom while maintaining high expectations.
  • Often believe they already know the answer — they really dislike parent lectures.
  • Show contempt with facial expressions and body language as a way of establishing their independence from parental authority.

Social and emotional milestones


  • Spend a lot of time and energy creating a specific identity around a small group of friends.
  • Value friendships above almost everything else.
  • Show more awareness in identifying their own unique gifts and talents.
  • Have an increased interest in liking the same hairstyles, clothes, music, and other likes and dislikes as their peers.
  • Can be easily embarrassed if they feel they are being perceived as uncool by their peers.
  • Like talking about current events, especially informally with friends.
  • Will cover up a feeling of incompetence by saying things like “I’m bored” to save face.
  • Are generally loud and energetic.

Cognitive milestones


  • Enjoy tackling big ideas.
  • Can handle lengthy projects by dividing it into timelines of achievement.
  • Respond well to challenging schoolwork, especially if they are invested in the planning and implementing stages.
  • Are interested in research and exploring the unknown.
  • Are developing a more solid understanding of cause and effect.
  • Can engage in more abstract thinking and consider an array of possible answers to proposed questions.
  • Like learning the mechanics of how things work.
  • Can express the difference between fact and fiction.

Ethics & self direction


  • Are gaining a more mature sense of right and wrong.
  • Are aware of bigger problems in the world at large and are interested in finding solutions. 
  • May express an interest in a specific career during this time of exploratory activities.
  • Are more willing to admit mistakes and try to resolve them.
  • Can still be strongly swayed by peer pressure.
  • May acquire a unique sense of humor that is quite creative and funny.
  • Find enjoyment in developing individual skills that show emerging intelligence.
  • Become more interested in answering the question “Who am I?” and dive into a deeper exploration and understanding of it.
  • Like evaluating their own work and will actively try to do better.

Sexual development

Most 14-year-olds will have reached sexual maturity by this age. It’s important to understand that sexual development is not just about the physical changes your teen experiences. Sexual development also includes the cognitive, emotional and social skills teens are still gaining to navigate these new experiences.

Some main points on sexual development are listed below, although you’ll want to read about sexual development in more detail. (You’ll be glad you did.)

Most 14-year-olds…

  • Are sexually aware of their peers.
  • Have become sexually mature physically — males can ejaculate and females have started their periods.
  • Are consuming media that may contain strong sexual messages.
  • Are developing attitudes and opinions about sexual expression and behaviors.
  • Are strongly influenced by peers when adopting certain beliefs about sexuality, gender, and romantic relationships. 
  • Need a more mature understanding of intercourse, reproduction and other sexual behaviors and attitudes to help them differentiate sexual fact from fiction.

It’s also important to note that according to the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth2, “A small but significant number (about 7 to 10 percent) of children are involved in more explicit sexual activity, including sexual intercourse, by the age of 13.”

Keep in mind that parents have the amazing opportunity to positively influence how their kids think, feel, and behave. At some point though, your young teen will determine their own opinions, beliefs, and behaviors about sexuality. No matter what your teen chooses, the best thing you can do is show genuine love and concern while you continue open and honest conversations with them. 

Naturally, adolescents who have chosen to be sexually active will need more specific information regarding sexual safety in relationships, pregnancy prevention, and protection from sexually transmitted infections. A parent can continue to influence future choices about healthy sexuality even with an adolescent that has chosen to be sexually active.

How parents and teens can thrive — not just survive

  • Develop a healthy amount of humor, patience, and restraint when dealing with criticisms from your teen.
  • Spend more time expressing confidence in your teen’s decision making skills and less time criticizing where they still struggle. 
  • Model appropriate adult-like behavior. Assess your actions to see if your example is in line with your words.
  • Use teachable moments when talking about sexuality. Media brings up sexual issues regularly. You can easily find examples of sexual behaviors, attitudes, values, stereotypes and consequences just by being attentive.
  • Ask open ended questions or make a statement about information, attitudes, or values when starting a conversation about sexuality. This should feel like a conversation, not a lecture, from the moment you start.
  • Be genuinely interested in listening to your teen when they are willing to talk, regardless of the topic. 
  • Differentiate clearly between facts, beliefs, values and opinions when talking about sexuality. Sexuality is a complex issue — no one sees it exactly the same. Acknowledge this while simultaneously laying the framework to help your teen understand your personal values and limits.
  • Don’t be afraid to set limits to keep your teen safe. Teens want to feel secure, but they also want to feel independent. Use negotiation with your teen, asking for their input, to assess these limits and modify them as needed. 
  • Educate yourself on sexual issues. Teens will readily recognize any parental discomfort when talking about issues, and this may make them hesitate coming to you with questions. 
  • Practice what you’d say and how you’d react in moments that catch you off guard.
    • “That’s a great question. Let me find an answer and we’ll talk again tomorrow night.”
    • “I can see you’re concerned about this. Let me get my thoughts together and we’ll talk again in an hour.”
    • “I’m glad you came to me. Can you tell me more about it?”
  1. Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood
  2. National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY). Accessed 20 May 2021.