What Causes a Teen to Be Overly Sarcastic?

By Damon Verial
Sarcasm is a tool that helps teens push themselves away from the adult world.
Sarcasm is a tool that helps teens push themselves away from the adult world.

Even the most, well-behaved teens occasionally engage in sarcasm. This is because sarcasm is a natural part of being a teen; it helps teens separate themselves from adults. But when you witness your teen overindulging in sarcasm, you might worry about her behavior. Staying informed on the essence of sarcasm and why your teen is using it can help you develop a strategy to countering the overuse of sarcasm in your teen.

Separation from Adults

Appropriate, on-topic speech in the adult world typically doesn't include sarcasm. Teens know this and wish to exclude themselves from the “adult world.” Teens use language to differentiate themselves from adults, according to psychology professor Crispin Thurlow in her book, “Talking Adolescence.” Using adult language in contradictory ways, such as with sarcasm, is a way in which teens can show adults that they just don’t understand the teen world. When a teen is overindulging in sarcasm, he is likely trying to make it highly apparent that he wishes to distance himself from the adult world and “society” in general.

Connection to Other Teens

On the other side of the adult world is the teen world, a world that encourages intra-age conformity. Parents might overestimate their teens’ sarcastic remarks as being intentionally rude, as noted in the text, “Trends in Teenage Talk.” To a teen, sarcasm is usually just a way of showing that he belongs to the teenage world and can use the language of that world. An abundant use of sarcasm might show an exaggerated attempt to fit in, a need that often drives teenage action.

Lack of Expressive Ability

Because digital technology is an increasingly popular form of communication, there is concern that this trend can have a detrimental effect on writing skills. A research article in the April 2012 issue of the "International Journal of Advanced Trends in Computer Science and Engineering" indicates that today’s teens are weaker in expressive abilities than those of yesteryear. An overuse of sarcasm in your teen might be an attempt to express something that he doesn't know how to express in another way. Teens often use sarcasm to represent an attitude without having to explain it. For example, if you are attempting to persuade your teen to go to church, he might say “Yeah, church is fun” in a sarcastic manner to indicate that he believes church is not fun. He knows that using the sarcastic voice allows him to express his opinion without having to clearly express it. In other words, sarcasm can be a crutch for poor language ability.

Fighting Sarcasm

The battle with a sarcastic teen is one you can easily win. Because sarcasm is part of the teen world and acts as a tool to separate “them” from “you,” you should not expect sarcasm to disappear from a teen’s vocabulary. That said, you can help your teen express herself more clearly by showing her that you are listening to her. Teens are more willing to express themselves clearly when they know that they have their parents’ full attention, according to the Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba website. By following up on what your teen means by her sarcastic remarks, you are forcing her to explain her feelings in clear terms, thereby showing her that sarcasm can often impede communication.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.