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ACT for Youth

Toolkit: Domains of Development

The resources included in this section focus on specific domains of development -- though we recognize that these domains are interconnected. Cognitive Development features adolescent brain development. Under Social and Emotional Development, the focus shifts to the emotional life of adolescents and the challenges involved in regulating emotions. Physical/Sexual Development addresses body changes, puberty, and evolving sexuality. Also see Adolescent Development Overview and Identity Development.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development

This overview of adolescent cognitive development includes factors that impact how adolescents' brains develop, adolescent decision making, and how to support cognitive development. HHS Office of Population Affairs.

Cognitive Development Overview

Brain Development in Teenagers

This brief video offers an entertaining look at the changes happening in the adolescent brain. Oxford University.

Video (2 minutes)

Why the Teenage Brain Has an Evolutionary Advantage

This 2017 video summarizes our understanding of brain development in adolescence. University of California.

Video (4 minutes)

The Developing Adolescent Brain

During adolescence, our brains are hungry for new experiences that will provide the skills and learning we need to thrive as adults. Center for the Developing Adolescent, UCLA.


The Science of Learning and Development

The research is clear: Strong relationships with educators help students develop the cognitive skills they need to learn and thrive. Edutopia.

Video (5 minutes)

Brain Architecture

Early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. Center on the Developing Child, Harvard.

Website, Multimedia Resources

Social and Emotional Development

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Toolkit

The SEL Toolkit offers resources to help youth work professionals provide opportunities for social and emotional learning. Resources include manuals, activities, fact sheets, videos, and websites on the topics of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. ACT for Youth.


Physical/Sexual Development

Understanding Sexual Development

This section of our website provides an overview of sexual development and presents links between gender and sexual behavior. ACT for Youth.



Written for parents, this guide offers detailed information on what to expect as children reach puberty. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

AAP Guide to Puberty

Puberty Overviews

These pages for parents provide overviews of the changes of puberty as they affect male and female children. University of Rochester Medical Center.

Puberty: Adolescent Male

Puberty: Teen Girl

Gender-affirming Care: What It Is and Why It's Necessary

This article provides background on the basic needs of transgender and nonbinary children and clarifies what gender-affirming care is and is not. Learning for Justice.

Article: Gender-affirming Care

Supporting & Caring for Transgender Children

This guide explains the difference between "gender-expansive" and "transgender," describes what it means to affirm a child's gender identity through transition, and more. Human Rights Campaign, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Guide to Supporting Transgender Children

Puberty and Transgender Youth

This video for youth defines the concept of being transgender and encourages talking to a parent, doctor, or therapist about feelings of anxiety or confusion about gender. It also introduces puberty blockers. Further information and resources are provided for youth, parents, and educators. Amaze.

Video and Resources

Sexual Behaviors and Health in Adolescence

While sexual development is central to adolescence, sex can be risky if youth do not have the supports they need. This section of our website covers risks associated with sexual behaviors, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy in adolescence. ACT for Youth.