Responding to Developmental Differences

Adolescents pose special challenges to health care providers because of the need to be aware of and responsive to their developmental differences. Depending on her developmental stage, one adolescent of a given age may need to be approached very differently from another. The following chart provides a brief summary of some useful approaches by stage rather than age.


Stages of Adolescence







Goal-setting ability of the teen

Limited—may be unable to formulate goals, or the goals may be unrealistic

Improving, but still limited—may formulate grandiose,

Often able to make realistic plans for the future, but may not be interested

Useful professional approaches

Be caring yet firm.

Offer simple, concrete choices.

Encourage causal reasoning.

Offer positive reinforcement, and build the teen's self-esteem.

Be caring and demonstrate respect for the teen's need to make decisions independently as well as to conform to peer pressures, but set limits firmly.

Encourage negotiation with adults and assist in learning negotiation skills.

Encourage consideration of the possible consequences of acts and the formation of realistic goals.

Be caring and be a good listener.

Offer opinions as one adult to another.

Serve as a resource and a sounding board.

Adapted from Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester, as seen in A Smart Start: Nutrition for Life.17

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