The way adolescents develop socially largely depends on their environment. For example, some youth live in neighborhoods and attend schools where violence is relatively common. These adolescents must develop different coping strategies than those who live in neighborhoods with more physical security. Some adolescents also experience trauma. These experiences can evoke stress reactions across all developmental areas. Some survivors of trauma have difficulty regulating emotions, sleeping, eating, and acting on or making decisions. In any case, all adolescents need caring adults in their lives who offer them support, provide opportunities for them to test their new skills, and offer guidance on how to be successful.
The key role that environment plays in adolescent development means that adolescents of the same age will differ greatly in their ability to handle diverse social situations. Adolescents’ bodies change and develop at different rates, and this process does not always happen in sync with other areas of development. For instance, those who develop physically at a relatively young age may be seen and treated more like adults or they may end up spending more time with older youth because of how they look, a pattern that increases their potential for engaging in sexual relationships. However, these more mature-looking adolescents may not be emotionally and cognitively ready to handle those new roles. On the other hand, adolescents who develop later may be seen and treated more like young children.