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Definition of Adolescent Egocentrism

The Cognitive Limitations of the Egocentric Adolescent

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Two teenage girls using make-up in bedroom
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Definition: Adolescent egocentrism is teens' and older tweens' belief that others are highly attentive to their behavior and appearance. That is, egocentric adolescents believe that all eyes are on them. Adolescent egocentrism is a developmentally normal cognitive limitation. In other words, teens and older tweens can no more stop themselves from being egocentric than an infant can fix their inability to speak. Adolescent egocentrism usually appears around 11 or 12 years of age and tapers off around 15 or 16 years.

While it can be difficult parenting a tween who thinks all eyes are on him/her, parents must be patient and understanding to see their child through this phase of life.

Adolescent egocentrism underlies many common tween and teen behaviors. For instance, adolescents often spend hours preening themselves because they think, "everyone will notice if I don't look good." They also become highly upset when they experience a minor embarrassment, such as dropping their tray in the cafeteria, because they think, "everyone saw it and will remember it forever!"

Adolescent egocentrism gives rise to two related beliefs seen in the late tween and teen years: the "imaginary audience" and the "personal fable."

The concept of adolescent egocentrism was first discussed by psychologist David Elkind.

Source:
Elkind, PhD, David. Egocentrism in Adolescence. Child Development. 1967. 38: 1025-1034.

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