As the teenage years are beginning, there is a common phase many teens will go through known as adolescent egocentrism. Adolescent egocentrism develops around the ages of 11 to 13 and involves the teenage belief that others around them are highly attentive to the teen’s behavior and appearance. As this development can happen in a number of teens, parents should be made aware of the different signs to watch for. Additionally they should also be aware that this is a common cognitive development in teens that the young individual cannot stop. Thus parents should try to be empathetic at this time but should be careful to make sure this mentality does not persist as the teen begins to mature past the age of 15 to 16 years of age.
This period of self-focused belief often occurs around the time that puberty begins in the adolescent and can be identified by a number of characteristics. Two main identifiers of adolescent egocentrism are the imaginary audience and the personal fable. The imaginary audience is the belief that others acknowledge the teen and watch and judge his or her activities and behaviors all the time. The other characteristic, the personal fable, encompasses the belief that the emotional circumstances a teen is experiencing, as well as certain events in his or her life, are only experienced by him or her individually.
While adolescent egocentrism is a normal stage of belief during the teen years, it can have some consequences. During this life stage, it is not unusual for the teens to gain heightened feelings of invincibility which can lead to risky behaviors such as substance abuse or unprotected sex.
Due to adolescent egocentrism teens may feel scrutinized and may work not to stand out from their peers for fear of judgement. In contrast, this period may also cause a teen to begin bullying others as their self-centered views cause them to be insensitive to another.
According to Dr. Paul Schwartz, when the teen starts to outgrow this stage around age 16, they usually begin to more clearly separate their own perception from that of others around them. Of course, continuing such behavior into maturity and continuing to believe that they are somehow more special than those around them can cause further difficulty with others. This is why it is so important for adolescents to evolve past this stage on the journey to healthy adulthood.
The reason that this process is considered a natural one for this age group is because the concept of metacognition, or the capability to think about one’s own thinking, is just beginning. This allows young people to be better equipped in making decisions about their identity. Eventually, teens should come to realize that others their age are going through the same experiences during this period.
Tips for parents
It can always prove helpful for parents to recall similar experiences of their own adolescence. No matter how silly or unusual a concern may seem to grown adults, they can best help their children who are struggling with this stage of development by listening intently and taking concerns seriously. Studies have demonstrated that parental support of the adolescent at this age can prove helpful in reducing the likelihood of egocentric behavior. If parents show their teens that they are with them at this time, the likelihood of additional, negative behaviors associated with the egocentrism can also be avoided, which include the instances of using illicit drugs and risky behaviors. Perhaps a parent can relate a similar experience from their own teenage years that can prove helpful.
By reducing the number of personal family troubles during this transitional period for teenagers, they will be less distracted and will more likely focus on the needs of developing their own adult identities. They will feel as though they are better able to be themselves and still be accepted by their parents and peers.
In serious cases, the teen may eventually be shown to be experiencing narcissistic personality disorder. Likewise, teens that face severe stress or a traumatic event during this phase can demonstrate delayed development depending on how such circumstances have shaped them. No matter the case, parents should strive to be available and understanding for adolescents at all times. If a mental health disorder is diagnosed, then it can be beneficial to seek recovery through treatment methods such as individualized therapy and medication.
For more information on how White River Academy can assist with helping to improve a teen’s development or to learn more about our programs for mental health and substance abuse, you can call us at 866-520-0905 to speak with a member of our tea.