Why Teens Behave Badly

Badly behaved teenagers are seen in every generation, and although the teenage rebellion rarely lasts into adulthood, it can be hard for parents to know the reasons behind the disruptive behavior 3. Changes in brain development, hormones, stress and peer pressure all play their part in giving a teenager a reason to act defiantly 4.

Brain Development

The human brain is still growing and developing well into the early 20s, and according to Discover magazine, the developing brain can cause teenagers to engage in more anti-social and risk-taking reckless behavior than younger children or adults 5. The Harvard Mental Health Letter also claims that dangerous addictions or drug taking can take place during the adolescent years, because an attachment to addiction or drug taking can seem exciting and vivid for the sensitive teenage brain.

Emotional Development

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, teenagers are starting to become independent, and many want to distance themselves from their parents to achieve independence. To achieve this independence, they may act out, argue and defy their parents, and spend more time with friends than with their parents. Teenagers challenge adult rules as a way of becoming independent. The BBC Science website also claims that if parents criticize their behavior, teenagers might respond with further rebellion or by talking back to their parents 3.


Teenagers can be under a lot of pressure, and many issues can contribute to stress, including academic expectations and pressure to fit in and be accepted with their peers. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the ways teenagers respond to stressful situations is through aggression, anxiety and drug or alcohol use. The AACAP suggests parents can help reduce teenage stress by listening to their teen's concerns and keeping an eye out for changes in their teen's behavior and health.

Peer Pressure

Teenagers are heavily influenced by their friends, and they want to seek acceptance and approval from their friends. According to TeenHelp, this desire to fit in can result in negative behavior, such as stealing, skipping class or drinking alcohol. While the teen may know this behavior is wrong, the temptation to fit in to what other teens are doing or not to be judged is so strong they will give in to peer pressure 4.