Causes for Teenage Rebellion

  • It is common for parents to believe that their teenager has a personal vendetta against them. Although it may seem this way, there is a much deeper meaning behind why teenagers seem to flock to rebellion. To understand the causes, however, one must first recognize the different types of rebellion. Most forms of rebellion fall into one of two categories. Although reasons and extent may vary among teenagers depending on their experiences at home, school and the people, including parents, classmates, friends and others that may impact a teen, defiance among teens is stemmed from more than just a basic desire to oppose others.

    The two types of revolt that most parents witness during their child’s adolescence are rebellion of non-conformity and rebellion of non-compliance (Pickhardt, 2009). A teenager that is exercising rebellion of non-conformity defies socially fitting in. In this situation, the teenager may intentionally isolate themselves from schoolmates, friends and even family. They may also engage in activities that will further distance themselves from others, such as bullying and teasing or simply not trying to make friends. When a teen uses rebellion of non-compliance, he/she will rebel against parents or other authority figures by intentionally breaking and disregarding rules, including curfew and/or chores, and arguing or being defiant.

    There are several reasons that stem from both non-conformity and non-compliance for which a teen will feel the need to dissent. First, a teenager may be trying to establish his/her identity (Merrill, 2012). I remember when I was a teen realizing different characteristics of friends and learning what they believed; it prompted me to learn about and uncover things about myself and what I believed. Not only this, but seeing life on television, and the lives of others helped me to mold an idea of what I did and did not want in my life. Next, a teenager could be trying to obtain acceptance (Merrill, 2012). In the center of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is love & belonging. It is common for individuals, especially those with less experience to feel a need to be accepted by others. Also, many teenagers engage in rebellious activities to seek attention (Merrill, 2012). In other words, teens may resort to disobedient behavior when they feel that others do not pay enough attention to or care about them. Some teenagers resort to unruly behavior to gain control (Merrill, 2012). There comes a time in life when you realize that everyone has a choice. When you notice that your parents make all the decisions for you, you will naturally feel the need to make more of your own choices during this time. Last, a teen may feel the need for more freedom (Merrill, 2012). When an adolescent begins to become more aware of the world outside of their four walls, they will become more interested in participating in activities outside of the home, and beyond their parents' direct supervision. I believe that all of these reasons cultivate as a part of the growth and development process.

    There are several suggestions for effectively responding to teenage rebellion. For teens that are searching for identity, a parent should encourage them to value themselves by embracing their individuality. He/she should also understand the difference between identity and image (Merrill, 2012). For teens who seek acceptance, parents should reassure them that being different is what holds the most value. Also, they should understand the prices they may be expected to pay for acceptance. Parents of teens who seem to seek attention should probably give their child more attention and praise. Just as they are scolded for what they have done wrong, they should be praised for the things they have done right. For teenagers who beg for more control, parents should give them opportunities to earn trust. This would not only create learning experiences for them, but it can build a trusting relationship between parent and child. For teens who feel the need for more freedom, parents should teach them that freedom comes with responsibility (Merrill, 2012). If a teenager fully understands responsibilities and requirements to obtain freedom, he/she will understand why there is a lack of freedom for their failure to meet those requirements.
    Generally, teenagers are not big risk-takers, contrary to popular belief (Davis, 2014). Many teenagers who understand the outcomes of certain choices will tend to make the better choice. Furthermore, rebellion is a part of growth and is actually linked to developmental changes in the brain that will ultimately help them to become more critically-thinking adults (Davis, 2014). So, teen rebellion doesn’t have to be taken so personal after all. Like the terrible twos, puberty, and menopause, it is just a common part of growth and development. With a little patience, sincerity, insight and time, it will be just another phase of life.

    Davis, J. L. (2014). Teenagers: Why Do They Rebel? Retrieved from

    Merrill, M. (2012, June 26). 5 Reasons Why Your Teen is Rebelling. Retrieved from

    Pickhardt, C. (2009, Dec 6). Surviving (Your Child's) Adolescence. Retrieved from adolescence/200912/rebel-cause-rebellion-in-adolescence

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