Adolescent Psychology

Course CodeBPS211
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Become a more effective:

  • Parent
  • Family counselor
  • Youth worker
  • Teacher
  • Educational counselor
  • Youth employment officer
  • Care workers

For anyone who works with adolescents or lives with them

  • Teenage years can be very difficult 
  • Examine the life changes which each teenager must navigate on their journey into adulthood. 
  • Understand of the role transitions and crises faced by young people 
By studying this course, you will learn to understand issues unique to teenagers, how to distinguish problem behaviour from typical or normal behaviour, and how to respond to teenagers more appropriately.
Build your confidence and skills to deal with adolescents.

The course is aimed at people working in youth work, child and adolescent counselling, schools, child psychology or other caring roles. It will also be of great interest to parents of teenagers and those who deal with teenagers in their daily lives.    


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • What is adolescence
    • Piaget's Theories of Development
    • Erikson's Psycho Social Stages, etc
  2. Life Crises
    • Puberty
    • Attachment Theory
    • Types of Problems, etc
  3. Physical Development
    • What is Puberty
    • Puberty in Females
    • Puberty in Males
    • Hormonal Control of Puberty
    • Factors Affecting Age of puberty
    • Obesity, etc
  4. Intellectual Development
    • Piaget's Formal Operations Stage
    • Cognitive Development and Behavioural Changes
    • School Problems
    • Information Processing
    • Decision Making
    • Brain Development
    • Assessing Intelligence, etc.
  5. Emotional Development
    • Freud's Theories
    • Emotional Problems (Depression, Eating)
    • Role of the Family
    • Grief and Teenagers
    • Typical Childhood Response to Grief
    • Supporting a Grieving Child
  6. Sexuality
    • Acquisition of Gender Identity
    • Sex Role Identity
    • Vicarious Learning and Sexual Identity
    • Gender Identity Disorders
    • Curiosity
    • Homosexuality
    • Sexual Behaviour
    • Nudity, etc
  7. Social Development
    • Family Influence
    • Denigration of Parents
    • Influence of Peers
    • Popularity
    • Shyness
    • Dating, etc
  8. Moral Development
    • Piaget's Theory of Moral Development
    • Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Reasoning
    • Role of Family in Moral Learning
    • Other Factors Affecting Moral development, etc.
  9. Delinquency and Crime
    • Pathways to Delinquency
    • Gangs
    • Case Studies
    • Behavioural Problems (Drugs, etc)
    • Child Abuse, etc.
  10. Adolescents and the Transition to Adulthood
    • Transition to Adulthood
    • Career Development, etc.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the theories of child development in relation to adolescents.
  • Describe life crises in relation to adolescents.
  • Describe the physical changes that occur in puberty.
  • Determine the intellectual changes that occur in adolescence.
  • Describe emotional development that occurs during adolescence.
  • Discuss sexuality during adolescence
  • Describe social development that occurs in adolescence.
  • Explain the theories of moral development in relation to teenagers.
  • Discuss the links between adolescence and delinquent activity such as crime.
  • Explain changes that occur moving from adolescence to adulthood.

A Time When Everything Changes

When we reach adolescence we have become used to being treated as a child and we are accustomed to the privileges associated with that role. Then, over a relatively short period of time we reach puberty which brings about bodily changes, and we also have to adjust to the emotional and psychological changes which accompany our new role as a young adult. We have to somehow reinvent ourselves whilst all these changes are taking place and hope that we get it right.

Early approaches to understanding adolescence put forward the view that it was always a problematic time. It was expected that teenagers would have mood swings, be temperamental, and experience emotional disturbances. More recent theories have challenged this traditional view and it is now widely accepted that many teenagers pass through this period quite smoothly. Often, it is a time when teenagers develop richer and more meaningful relationships with their parents and other adults, and they may come to trust them more.

Attachment Theory

John Bowlby is an influential figure within psychology, in particular child psychology. Bowlby carried out work with maladapted and delinquent children. He was interested in finding out whether actual patterns of family interactions were involved in healthy and pathological development in children. He focussed on attachment and how difficulties in this area could be transmitted from one generation to the other. Bowlby was working at a time when attachment was not considered so important – the 1940s and 1950s. For example, parents were not encouraged to visit children in hospital, as it was felt that it would upset them.

Bowlby developed a scientific theory – Attachment Theory. He viewed that attachment behaviour was an evolutionary strategy aimed at survival – protecting the infant from harm. He argued that attachment relationships were crucial to later healthy development.

Bowlby’s theory is based on the idea that normal mother-child or primary caregiver-child attachment forms in the first two years of life. An attachment being defined as a strong emotional bond. If the child is separated from the primary caregiver during the first five years, it can cause difficulties for the child. The Attachment Theory has been used to explain behavioural difficulties in adopted children, psychopathology, juvenile delinquency and so on.

Attachment is fundamental to a healthy and normal personality and the ability to form healthy emotional relationships. Attachment is the basis of emotional health and social relationships. It allows us to develop the ability to form reciprocal relationships, trust others, be secure and feel safe as a child. It allows children to develop empathy, a conscious and so on. Children adopted after the age of six months may experience attachment problems. Normal attachment develops during the first two to three years of a child’s life. Any problems with the mother-child/primary caregiver-child relationship during that time can interfere with this normal development eg. Separation from the primary caregiver. If the child’s needs are not met in a loving, nurturing way, attachment will not occur naturally and this can lead to a variety of underlying symptoms.

Why might attachment not occur?

The relationship between the primary caregiver and child can be disrupted in a number of ways, leading to the attachment not being secure. Examples might include –

  • The mother suffers post-partum depression.
  • The parent may have had their own experience of trauma eg. Abuse, inappropriate parental responses, so may not be aware of how to form a secure relationship.

Genetic factors

  • There may be disruptions in caregiving.
  • The child may be hospitalised.
  • Developmental disorders
  • The caregiver may feel overloaded, unable to cope with the child, so they may not be able to meet the child’s needs.

Attachment Disorder can occur when a normal attachment relationship is not form. This can result in a number of effects on the child, some more severe than others. This does not mean that ALL children with attachment disorder develop these problems, they may experience some, all or none.

Possible problems:

  • Phoney behaviour – superficially charming
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of reciprocal affection
  • Indiscriminate affection with strangers
  • Self-destructive
  • Destructive to others, objects
  • Animal cruelty
  • Poor relationships with peers
  • Preoccupied with fire and/or gore
  • Asking nonsense questions
  • Little control over chattering
  • Inappropriate clinginess
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Lying in the face of the obvious
  • Poor impulse control
  • Learning delays
  • Lack of conscience
  • Lack of understanding of cause and effect
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Lack of trust
  • Distorted view of self
  • Feelings of shame
  • Feelings of being unlovable
  • Sense that they are bad
  • Difficulty asking for help
  • Low motivation
  • Poor academic performance
  • Difficulty relying on others

Why You Should Study This Course

This course will help you to understand adolescents and improve your relationship with them whether from a work or parenting perspective. Students learn about changes in life associated with teenage years - from leaving childhood to becoming young adults. You will develop an appreciation of why adolescents behave in particular ways at particular times and how to help them face problems they encounter. Having knowledge of normal teenage development in areas like social skills, identity and sexuality will help you to recognise when things aren’t quite right.  

This course is primarily aimed at people working in or hoping to work in:

  • Youth work
  • Child and adolescent counselling
  • Schools
  • Child psychology
  • Caring roles
  • Youth coaching

It will also be of great interest to parents of teenagers as well as those who deal with teenagers in their daily lives.   








ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development
ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development

ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association

Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network
Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

ACS is recognised by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council
ACS is recognised by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council

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Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo
Christine Todd

University lecturer, businesswoman, photographer, consultant and sustainability expert; with over 40 years industry experience B.A., M.Plan.Prac., M.A.(Social). An expert in planning, with years of practical experience in permaculture.
Gavin Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. He has co-authored several psychology text books and many course
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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