Adolescent Psychology

Learn about the changes and challenges faced by adolescents; understand to provide effective support and guidance. Study with ACS Distance Education for professional development with studies delivered by specialist tutors.

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

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Working with adolescents? Study with a distance learning course specifically developed to look at adolescent psychology.

Learn more about the adolescent mind; how it grows and develops.

Adolescent Psychology is a valuable course for anyone who works or lives with teenagers.

  • Learn about the physical, psychological and emotional changes faced by teenagers.
  • Learn about the crises and challenges faced by adolescents.
  • Understand social and moral development.
  • Understand how to offer support and guidance by understanding underlying issues.
  • Develop your knowledge to improve your capacity to positively influence teenagers you interact with.

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.

Understand adolescents - for anyone who works with adolescents or lives with them.

This is a 100 hour course providing professional development and aimed at people working as:
  • Teachers
  • Carers
  • Youth Workers
  • Foster Carers
  • Social Workers
  • Youth Employment Officers
  • Educational Counsellors
  • Law Enforcement
  • Sports Coaches

This course 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
    • Theories of Human Development
    • What is adolescence?
    • Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development
    • The stages of Piaget’s theories
    • Moral development
    • Erikson’s psychosocial development theory, stages
  2. Life Crises
    • Life crisis
    • Problems
    • Puberty
    • Attachment theory
    • Internalised and externalized problems
    • Types of problems experienced by adolescents
  3. Physical Development
    • Puberty in females
    • Puberty in males
    • Hormones
    • Physical activity
    • Obesity
  4. Intellectual Development
    • Piaget’s formal operations stage
    • School problems
  5. Emotional Development
    • Freud’s theories
    • Emotional problems
    • Teenagers and grief
    • Eating problems
    • Depression
    • Emotional problems
    • Typical childhood responses to grief
    • Supporting a grieving child
  6. Sexuality
    • Acquisition of gender identity and social role identity
    • Vicarious learning and sexual identity
    • Gender dysphoria
    • Curiosity
    • Sex
    • Sexual behaviour
    • Masturbation
    • Sexuality and nudity
    • Answering questions
  7. Social Development
    • Family influence
    • Types of parenting
    • Denigration of parents
  8. Moral Development
    • Piaget’s theory of moral development
    • Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning
  9. Delinquency and Crime
    • Juvenile delinquency
    • Pathways to delinquency
    • Gangs
    • Crimes more likely in adolescence
    • Behaviour problems
    • Drugs, solvents and alcohol
    • Child abuse
    • Triggers of abuse
    • Stranger abuse
    • How to deal with deviance
  10. Adolescents and the Transition to Adulthood
    • Erikson’s later stages
    • The transition to adulthood

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 e.g. Abuse, inappropriate parental responses, so may not be aware of how to form a secure relationship.

Genetic factors

  • There may be disruptions in care-giving.
  • 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.

  • Learn about changes in life associated with teenage years - from leaving childhood to becoming young adults.
  • Develop an understanding of why adolescents behave in particular ways at particular times.
  • Understand how to help adolescents 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.  

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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.
Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
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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