Cognitive development: Thinking on new levels (2023)

Cognitive development in adolescents

Adolescence is a time of change. Some changes are hard to miss, like when you turn around and realize that your child seems to have grown a head. But what is perhaps the most wonderful change is one that you cannot see at all. It's transforming how your child can think - or cognitive development. Cognitive development is critical to preparing young people to deal with complexity, make judgments, and plan for the future.

Youth whose thinking is well developed will be successful and will be ready to move us forward. Parents and caregivers support the growing cognitive development of adolescents when we:

  • Create an environment where teens' ideas and independent thinking are valued.
  • Involve teenagers in discussions about current events and ask them to consider solutions to problems.
  • Recognize when teenagers are making well-informed decisions.
  • Help teenagers reconsider their mistakes. Encourage them to imagine how consequences could have been avoided.
  • Feel free to participate in political and spiritual discussions, even if we don't share your views.
  • Celebrate the idealism of youth and recognize it as hope for the future.
  • Listen to teenagers plan their future and encourage them to discover more about themselves over time.

Cognitive development is a critical developmental process that we need to appreciate, even if some of it creates uncomfortable moments for us.

The way we think changes over time

Young children around the age of 11 or 12 tend to think concretely. That means they see things as they are. They don't look far into the future, imagine nuances, or understand complex motivations that sometimes drive behavior. They are avid listeners, but they learn based on what they can see, touch, and manipulate. For example, they can do arithmetic by adding, subtracting, or changing objects from one shape (two nickels) to another (one dime). Young children are good at categorizing things (sorting alphabetically, sorting by color) or in descending order of size. They can be thoughtful, but mostly about things that they can easily describe or imagine experiencing here and now. While they have close, loving relationships, they are largely focused on what people do for them.

Younger children may ask, "Is that cookie for me?" But those who are more cognitively advanced may begin to become less fixated on the cookie and more concerned with the other person's intentions in getting them the cookie in the first place give. Or maybe they pause to think about their own desire for the cookie. Although children generally don't think abstractly, that's not because they can't. You just can't do it consistently. But with the right support, they can do it more regularly.

Cognitive development & abstract thinking

As cognitive development progresses in adolescence, adolescents begin to think in more abstract ways. They envision possibilities far into the future and may ponder the concept of thinking itself. Teenagers may become fascinated with philosophy and other intellectual pursuits and begin to appreciate symbolism. As they interact with others, they understand that actions may not represent true thoughts or intentions. As they advance into adulthood, they begin to embrace their role in the world and come up with plans that allow them to make a unique contribution.

Typically during puberty we switch from concrete to abstract thinking. Adolescence is a time when our coordination between emotions, attention, and behavior increases. Adolescence and the experiences that life offers us both play a role in the co-development of the brain and body. It's worth noting that although almost all adults are capable of abstract thinking, many tend to rely on concrete thinking instead. And people who are highly stressed find it difficult to draw on their abstract skills in times of crisis.

Cognitive development is a process, not an event

We don't wake up one day with philosophical thoughts, the ability to solve a complicated math problem, or the ability to understand the complexities of human behavior. Rather, we build new understandings based on past experiences. And that often takes our survey to another level. Our questioning leads to the answers that allow us to further expand our thinking.

Like all development, cognitive development is uneven. Age alone is not the only reason we evolve. While cognitive development is tied to physical development, we cannot assume that a teenager's brain has caught up just because a teenager's body has matured. The ability to think more maturely can also vary by attitude. Young people can develop new cognitive skills at school before personal attitudes. For example, teens may use memory enhancements or selective attention at school but not at home. Their emotional centers develop faster than decision centers, so they may not use the same thinking skills when hanging out with friends as they do at school. And they may not think the same way in a heated moment as they do in a calm moment (neither do adults!).

Signals that the adolescent brain is developing

Here are some clear indications that changes are taking place in the brain. (The ages given are approximate, not absolute ranges.)

Early Adolescents (11-14):

  • Develop a personalized way of communicating while imagining being able to make their own decisions. That means they're better at telling you why they think what they think and do what they do.
  • Focus on personal choices as they begin to understand that parental authority is not absolute.
  • Question parental authority, why rules are made, and why society's rules exist.

Middle Teens (14-18):

  • Can question authority more broadly, as they are better able to distinguish between matters that authority figures are empowered to regulate and matters that are their own personal decisions.
  • Can better link current behaviors to future consequences.
  • Start imaginingtheir own identity and role in the world.
  • They have to make their own plans.
  • Can take increasing complexity into account.
  • start seeinghigher ethical and moral standardsas a result of their questioning of rules.

Late Teens (18-24):

  • Make early career decisions and plan their role in the adult world.
  • Can apply their views to global concepts such as equity and justice.
  • Begin to reconcile your idealism with reality-based limitations.
  • Become more comfortable discussing their ideas and defying authority.
(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development


Understand how teenagers think to improve communication

Successful conversations with teenagers happen when parents see how their children think. Consider developmental milestones when attempting to communicate with youth.

(Video) Jean Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory | Lesson-23 | for CTET, DSSSB, KVS, UP-TET-2019


Meet them where they are

Consider your tween's or teen's mood before starting a discussion. It is important that your concerns are raised in a respectful conversation.


Make it a two-way conversation

Lectures can be frustrating and difficult to follow for many young people. Parents should provide information in a way that children can understand. Engage back and forth discussions that allow teens to adopt solutions.

(Video) Piaget's theory of Cognitive Development


Know their level of development

Understand what stage of development your child is in and their ability to understand complex information. Young children see things exactly as they are - concretely. Adults see possibilities and imagine future consequences—abstract. Adolescents think somewhere in the middle.


Look at their stress level

Young people experiencing stress can lose the ability to plan ahead and consider the consequences of their actions. Adults also have trouble thinking clearly when they are stressed. Tackle difficult conversations when you can both remain calm and level-headed.

(Video) Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development in Social Relationships

Celebrate cognitive development

Cognitive development is a critical developmental process that we need to appreciate, even if some of it creates uncomfortable moments for us. Remember, our tweens and teens can't navigate the world unless they understand not to take everything at face value. And they will only improve our world and lead us into the future if they challenge things adults have become accustomed to but should change. Here are some ways you can celebrate your teen's cognitive development.

Appreciate the return of no and why

Do you remember when your kids were two? Her favorite word was "No!" That was both annoying and endearing, but it was important to understand that they had the ability to make decisions. The next level of development was to question the “why” of everything you said. A little crazy but also captivating as you watched their understanding of the universe take shape - you answered all of their questions because you wanted them to be bright and curious. Even when you got exhausted.

Well, "no" and "why" are back. The fact that teenagers question authority is a crucial step in their control over their decisions. The fact that they demand explanations instead of blindly accepting our rules or societal standards is exactly what they need to do to understand how and why things work. The cognitive advances during this period allow teenagers to make better arguments. In this new world of "no" and "why," what comes across as a cantankerous teenager is actually a sign of cognitive development. And the ability to argue effectively is important in the long run!

Let them test boundaries

Successful people imagine possibilities. You think outside the box. It is a young person's cognitive task to push boundaries and imagine what lies beyond the set boundaries. Our job is to set boundaries that ensure safety and securityMoralare firmly in place while allowing our teens to push all other boundaries. And we need to help them understand why there are rules and boundaries.

allow risk taking

Risk-taking allows young people to test possibilities. We createsafe bordersto ensure safety andMoral. Within these limits we allow experiments. This is crucial forhealthy brain developmentand learning. There are many healthy ways to test boundaries. Our job is to encourage these healthy learning opportunities. Try yourself for a play. Solo singing in the church choir. Invite someone to the prom. Even if the risk taken is a mistake, teenagers learn and grow from the risks they take and the mistakes they make.

support decision making

One of the most important changes between adolescence and adulthood is the evolution of experiential decision-making. As caring adults, we should encourage decision-making, including empowering them to follow through with their decisions and learning from the consequences. This is the best way to reinforce wise decisions and learn how to make better ones. However, our job as leaders is to prevent them from making bad decisions in areas that could harm their safety or endanger their ownMoral. That's why we set clear boundaries and model desirable behaviors.

Encourage them to think about... think

Thinking about thinking is intoxicating. Imagining possibilities is a deep privilege. It's amazing to see our teens discovering that many answers are not the final word. The fact that questions lead to more questions is at the root of creativity and innovation. Even if you know the answers, sit down with your teens and enjoy these conversations about complexity so you can nurture their thinking and problem-solving skills.

Honor teenage intelligence by turning off the lecture

We want to honor the intelligence of our teenagers and help them solve problems. We do this throughFacilitate their thought processesso they can develop and ultimately own their solutions. Lectures undermine teens' intelligence by stifling their ability to solve their own problems.The presentationis essentially a top-down approach to parenting. It tends to be very abstract, making assumptions about future behavior and consequences that some adolescents may find difficult to understand. Lectures are also usually held during stressful times. And because adolescents are very attuned to social/emotional information, they may pay more attention to our anger than what is said when we speak to them in an angry voice. Bottom Line: When we're stressed (teenagers and adults alike), our ability to think abstractly is reduced.

Be the model

Adults are used to thinking abstractly. It's not a shiny new toy. So we may not talk very much about why we think what we think. With teenagers, it's important to share how we actively think through problems, value consideration in others, consider complexity and consequences, and plan for the future. The more we do these things, the easier it will be for teenagers to nurture their own cognitive development. Being a role model also means being a sounding board for our teenagers as they begin to differentiate between society's rules and personal choices. The ability to think critically is a skill we should wish for all teenagers — not just our own.


What is cognitive development answer? ›

Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them.

What are the cognitive development of a child at different levels? ›

Sensorimotor stage (0–2 years old) Preoperational stage (2–7 years old) Concrete operational stage (7–11 years old) Formal operational stage (11 years old through adulthood)

What are some examples of cognitive development? ›

Thinks about different possibilities and begins to develop own identity (for example, Who am I? ) Thinks about and begins to systematically consider possible future goals (for example, What do I want? ) Thinks about and begins to make his or her own plans. Begins to think long-term.

What are the 4 types of cognitive development? ›

Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development, and called them (1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking. Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only approximately.

How would you describe a good cognitive development? ›

Cognitive development means the development of the ability to think and reason. Children ages 6 to 12, usually think in concrete ways (concrete operations). This can include things like how to combine, separate, order, and transform objects and actions.

What is cognitive development in early childhood examples? ›

Examples of Cognitive Skills
  • Responding to their name.
  • Recognizing and naming objects in a book.
  • Verbalizing needs.
  • Following instructions.
  • Counting to 10.
  • Knowing their gender.
  • Understanding the difference between the present and the past.
  • Engaging in symbolic play.

Why is cognitive development important in early childhood? ›

Why is Cognitive Development important? Cognitive development provides children with the means of paying attention to thinking about the world around them. Everyday experiences can impact a child's cognitive development.

What affects cognitive development? ›

Children's cognitive development is affected by several types of factors including: (1) biological (e.g., child birth weight, nutrition, and infectious diseases) [6, 7], (2) socio-economic (e.g., parental assets, income, and education) [8], (3) environmental (e.g., home environment, provision of appropriate play ...

What is an example of cognitive thinking? ›

Forming, storing and recalling memories allow humans to display much of their intelligence and are critical components of cognition. For example, you may remember your birthday without thinking about it, but memorizing someone else's birthday may take some mental effort.

What is cognitive development simple? ›

The term cognitive development refers to the process of growth and change in intellectual/mental abilities such as thinking, reasoning and understanding.

What is the importance of cognitive skills? ›

Cognitive skills are extremely important to develop during the early years of life as they help your brain think, read, learn, reason, pay attention and remember. These skills help process incoming information and distribute it to the appropriate areas of the brain.

What is cognitive development quizlet? ›

Cognitive Development. Refers to how intelligence, thought, and language processes change as a person grows. Cognition. Refers to the operation of thinking and also to out cognitive skills and abilities.

What is cognitive learning in simple words? ›

Definition. Cognitive learning is a change in knowledge attributable to experience (Mayer 2011). This definition has three components: (1) learning involves a change, (2) the change is in the learner's knowledge, and (3) the cause of the change is the learner's experience.

What's the meaning of cognitive? ›

cognitive. adjective. cog·​ni·​tive ˈkäg-nət-iv. : of, relating to, or being conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning words)

What is the cognitive development in early childhood? ›

Early childhood generally refers to the period from birth through age 5. A child's cognitive development during early childhood, which includes building skills such as pre-reading, language, vocabulary, and numeracy, begins from the moment a child is born.


1. Jean Piaget | 4 Stages of cognitive development | हिन्दी
(the good life)
2. Piaget: Theory of Cognitive Development
(Teachings in Education)
3. Pedagogy Theories- Piaget, Vygotsky & Kohlberg Complete Theories for CTET,DSSSB,KVS,REET, UPTET-2021
(Let's LEARN)
4. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
(Louis Montano)
5. Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory | Childhood and Growing up | Sabiha Noor
(Stairs to Excellence)
6. Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory, Basics of Cognitive Development
(Prateek Shivalik)


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