Behavior Problems

Many adolescents today have problems and are getting into trouble. After all, there are a lot of pressures for kids to deal with among friends and family. For some youth, pressures include poverty, violence, parental problems, and gangs. Kids may also be concerned about significant issues such as religion, gender roles, values, or ethnicity. Some children are having difficulty dealing with past traumas they have experienced, like abuse. Parents and their teenagers are struggling between the youth’s wanting independence while still needing parental guidance. Sometimes all these conflicts result in behavior problems.

The patterns signaling the need for help include not only deviant behaviors by the adolescent, but also the presence of other problems in the family or tensions at home. For example, problems in the parents’ marriage or frequent fighting or hostility among the family members can also be involved in the youth’s behavior problems. The problem behaviors and other family issues can interact and feed off each other, so that it is hard to tell where it started.

Of course, there are also some obvious signs that indicate the need for immediate and effective intervention, including violence against other persons or animals, or when peers are involved in destructive processes (crime, truancy, drugs). Or, a parent may simply have an instinctive feeling that something serious is happening. An important first step to find out what is going on is to try to talk to the adolescent and other family members about what is happening, possible reasons, and potential solutions. Others who know the adolescent and family, like teachers or caregivers, may also be able to provide information about the youth’s mood or behaviors outside of the home to help assess the severity of the problem.