Child development - milestones for high school

Monday, June 26, 2023

The aim of this article is to provide an overview of what changes you can expect to see in your high schooler, or a child who is between 14 and 18 years-old. These changes will occur across all developmental domains: motor; cognitive; language and social-emotional.


High school students will demonstrate more independence and may spend less time with their parents. High school is critical time in the life of your child. It is considered by some to be last stage before they reach adulthood (although there is evidence that full cognitive maturity is not reached until the early twenties); and as such, there is still a lot of growing and development to be done, both physically and especially emotionally. Just like middle schoolers, high schoolers will reach maturity at a different pace and in strikingly varied ways.

If you do feel that your child may be struggling, or has missed more than one milestone, then it’s probably a good idea to consult your pediatrician or family doctor for more insight and information.


Most children in this age range may:

  • Develop a larger appetite as they start to reach adulthood
  • Require more sleep and may be sleepy in school, if it starts earlier
  • Develop the visual-spatial coordination needed to help judge distance and speed and react quickly
  • In some cases, become more agile and coordinated
  • Other high schoolers may become less coordinated, as they continue their growth spurt


Most children in this age range can:

  • Show an increasing ability to reason
  • Learn how to make educated guesses
  • Tell fact from fiction
  • Think more abstractly, comparing what is to what could be
  • Come up with ways to deal with hypothetical situations
  • Set their own goals for the future
  • Take other opinions into account but ultimately, make their own decisions
  • Understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions
  • Develop a strong personal sense of right and wrong
  • Make decisions based on following their conscience
  • Write with complexity about a variety of subject areas
  • Search for, use, and compare information from multiple sources
  • Use numbers in real-life situations (like calculating a tip)
  • Learn more defined work habits
  • Show more concern about future school and work plans
  • Be better able to give reasons for their own choices, including about what is right or wrong

Social and Emotional Skills

High schoolers may be more aware of what their peers think of them.

At 14 or 15, children in this age range:

  • Can recognize personal strengths and challenges
  • Can be embarrassed by family and parents
  • Strive to be more independent
  • Are keen to be accepted by peers and to have friends
  • May seem self-centred, impulsive, or moody
  • Don’t want to talk as much
  • May be argumentative
  • May form deeper relationships with siblings than parents
  • Have only few close friends and may start dating
  • Analyze their own feelings and discern their cause

Between 15 and 17, children may:

  • Have more interest in romantic relationships and sexuality
  • Have fewer arguments with parents, but show even more independence from them
  • Have a deeper capacity for caring and sharing and for developing more intimate relationships.
  • Feel a lot of sadness or depression
  • Are able to voice emotions (both negative and positive) and try to find solutions to conflicts


It’s important to recognize that human development is a delicate process; and it’s never the same for every child. If you do feel concern for your child’s developmental trajectory, then by all means consult a medical professional for an opinion.

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