Teen Behavior

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
Teens often juggle school, jobs, sports and social activities.
Teens often juggle school, jobs, sports and social activities.

Being a teenager is anything but a walk in the park. The teen years are filled with stressful challenges, temptations and a new frame of mind that begs for independence.Teens are making the big leap from childhood into young adulthood. Peers are extremely important to teens and can have a major impact on their attitudes and actions. Adolescents can feel besieged by hormone-induced emotional and physical changes that can affect their behavior.

Peer-Related Issues

Teens gradually rely more on their friends than their parents, which can lead to disregarding or disputing household rules while choosing instead to cave into peer pressure. Unlike younger children, who have a cluster of three or four friends, teens enter a world of larger peer groups or "cliques." Teenage girls in particular rely on their friends to share their deepest feelings and thoughts. Teens generally categorize one another within the social structure of their high school as being "popular," a "jock," a "nerd" and a "brain."

Dating and Sexuality

Falling in love for the first time typically happens during the teen years. Parents should not write off the deep emotions their teens feel when they declare they've found someone special. Adolescents experience many changes, not the least of which is developing feelings in intimate connections, explains Paula Braverman, M.D., FAAP, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Many high school students are sexually active, which places them at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis. Parents should talk to their adolescent about the importance of birth control before they become sexually active. Fifty-eight percent of sexually active high school students said they used a condom during their last sexual encounter. Only 20 percent of sexually active teen girls reported using oral contraceptives the last time they had intercourse, notes the American Psychological Association or APA.

Self-Destructive Impulses

Teens with low self-esteem or problems at home are at a higher risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviors like using alcohol and drugs. Nevertheless, troubled teens aren't the only ones tempted to throw caution to the wind. The APA says 70 percent of teens have tried cigarette smoking and 25 percent of high school students smoke at least one cigarette per day; boys tend to smoke more than girls. More than 80 percent of high school students have tried alcohol and 47 percent have smoked marijuana at least once.


Getting a driver's license is one of the most exciting moments in a teen's life because it represents freedom and independence. Sadly, there's a dark side to teen driving. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of deaths among teens. More than 5,500 young people die in vehicle crashes each year in the United States, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. To add insult to injury, 13 percent of students admit to driving a vehicle once or more after drinking during the past month, reports the American Psychological Association. Teen boys are more likely to drive under the influence than girls, adds the APA.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.