Anger, violence, delinquency and depression are one of the few observed things in teenage. It is quite normal to observe these things once in awhile but when it becomes a routine behaviour and these activities start interfering with daily activities than it is alarming and it should be taken care of. Whatever we think, say or do reflects our state of mind. Being angry always, behaving violently with peers and family members, missing school, engaging in risk-bearing activities are few signs that the teenager might be very depressed or has a strong undergoing emotional turmoil which is being reflected through the attitude and behaviour of the adolescent. Now let us know how the transition of emotions and thoughts in a teenager takes place and how can it affect the behaviour of the adolescent.
Adolescence: Period of emotional transition
Adolescence is a time when manifold changes are taking place in an individual’s life. There are physical, emotional, psychological and hormonal changes that are taking place. All these changes bring a period of emotional turmoil and perplexed feelings when the adolescents are not sure that what all is going around them.
This is the time when adolescents usually are neither kids nor adults and are in a process of finding their own identities. They do so by asserting independence. In doing so the behavioural changes occur that are completely unexpected and unpredictable. The most important change that is observed during this time is that closeness to parents, family and siblings irritates them on contrary to childhood separation anxiety. This change in particular also troubles the parents as they are confused pertaining to what has happened to their kids? A child who used to share every detail about what happened with them during the entire day might all of a sudden stop communicating about his feelings and what is actually going on in his mind?
Adolescence is a difficult period not only for the adolescent but also for the parent as well.
What causes violent behaviour in teenagers?
Adolescence is the time when the physical, psychological and emotional growth of the individual is taking place. While the physical growth is taking place in context of gaining height and weight, but this is also a period when development of brain takes place. As the brain grows, cognitive skills also grow and there is also the restructuring of frontal and cortical areas that takes place at this point of time. It has been studied that the part of brain that deals with logical reasoning is more developed in adults as compared to teenagers in whom the part of the brain that deals with emotions is more active. This causes the overt emotional behaviour in teenagers which also predisposes the teenagers to violence which is an exaggerated form of anger as an emotion.
It should also be noted that violence and anger cannot be just attributed to the developmental changes that are taking place but the factors such as social, personal, family and peer relations should also be evaluated.
When you encounter a violent teenager should have empathy with him and not always try to dominate or behave in the rude or adamant manner with him/her as sometimes anger might be used to mask underlying emotions. Teenagers are not usually mature enough to know how to cope with feelings of frustration, embarrassment, sadness, hurt, fear, shame or vulnerability and usually when they are not able to cope up they have an outburst of anger or violence.
What are the associated risk behaviours?
Although the changes are going on in all adolescents life while only a few of them turn violent and others may be rude or arrogant at times but are not violent always. So it can be understood better if we know the behaviour patterns that are warning signs pertaining to adolescent being more inclined towards violence. Let’s have a look over these risk factors one by one:
- Engaging in violent activities and fights in school
- Skipping schools
- Alcohol or drug abuse/dependence
- Self-harm and injuries
- Casual sexual relationships
- Car/bike racing or other adventure activities
- Threatening or bullying peers or juniors
- Being obsessed about violent movies, games, comics, websites
- Playing or obsession about weapons
- Damaging or vandalizing other’s/ public property
- Cruelty towards pets/animals/siblings
- Discussing acts of violence
How to differentiate normal teen behaviour from troubled teen?
Although dealing with teenagers is the most difficult thing but being a parent one should always remember that they just require love and care from us and their behaviour is just a reflection of what we want to see in them. Sometimes the changing behaviour and role leaves them perplexed and sometimes being a parent we just tend to over exaggerate things. Let’s have a look over the things that are normal as a teenager and the things that should make you raise a suspicion towards his behaviour.
In teenage it is quite normal to be updated about the latest fashion trends and following all fashion fads. It may include wearing provocative or attention seeking clothes, colouring hair. Being conscious about one’s looks and weight is also very normal at this point. It is also noteworthy that at this point of time even small adjustment is a very difficult task for a teenager as they want to assert independence in whatever they do. There is a constant struggle between right-wrong, thoughts, behaviour, actions and emotions which causes a lot of mood swings at this age. Friends are most important at this point of time and just to maintain their importance in the group they would like to try out alcohol, drugs and even marijuana.
On contrary to above mentioned behaviour if your teen behaves in another awkward ways it might be a warning sign that he/she is troubled teen. Although adjustments are difficult at this time but still if the teenagers has a self-harming attitude and frequently engages in arguments and acts of violence at home or at school than you should be extra cautious.
Troubled teens or teens usually engaged in violent activities skip school, find a satisfaction in breaking rules and laws, have a rapid change in personality, there is a persistent sadness or anxiety which is usually accompanied by sleep problems. These teenagers are also seen to have drug or alcohol abuse and have usual problems at school. Their company will be enough to tell you about them as their friends usually encourage negative behaviour. Or they are usually loners and like spending time alone.
What you should do?
If you are a parent reading this then you should remember that you too were a teenager and there is just one golden rule that applies to this age group - it is attention, love and care. Teenagers just want a bit of your attention and lot of love and care. Be a role model for your kids. They learn to behave in the same way as you do. So if you get angry when you are stressed and shout & break things than you cannot expect anything better from your kids. So be calm and poise, listen to them and try to reach to a common solution. Also try to engage your kid in some kind of sport or activity where they can release their stress. And most important treat them as individuals and give them a space to retreat.
If still things are getting worse you should always consult a doctor or healthcare provider.
If you are a teenager reading this then remember just like you are trying to figure out your identity even your parents are confused about you being a kid or adult. They are also trying to adapt to your new phase. Be calm, patient and think before saying or doing anything as sometimes there are no apologies for your acts or words.
- Nelson textbook of paediatrics, 19th edition, Kliegman, Stanton, St. Geme, Schor, Behrman. Elsevier publication. ISBN: 978-1-4377-0755-7. Chapter-25
- Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th edition, Frederic et al, ISBN-13: 978-0-7216-0549-4. Chapter-6