What are Teenagers Going Through?

Written By

Kannika Iyengar

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Adolescence is a time for very rapid change for teenagers both physically and cognitively. Other than infancy, this is the only other development age when there are so many changes in one’s body. We all know the teenage years to be troublesome for the teen and his / her family, but what exactly does a teenager go through?

  • A teenager’s brain is still actively developing, processing information differently than a mature adult’s brain. The frontal cortex is re-structuring at an amazing rate during the teenage years and fully matures only in the 20s. This is the part of the brain used to manage emotions, make decisions, reason, and control inhibitions.
  • The other change that is taking place in the brain of a teenager is the use of the Amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions. Adults use the pre-frontal cortex to read emotional cues but this is different in teenagers, which results in misunderstanding of facial expressions and non-verbal cues by teens.
  • Hormones and developmental changes often mean that the teenager experiences mood swings, irritable behavior, and struggles to manage his or her emotions.
  • Teenagers are unable to think through things at an adult level, though physically they look and act as mature as someone in their 20s.
  • At this stage in life, there is a lot of peer pressure and a need to fit into peer groups. This can lead to reduced self-esteem and lower self confidence in teenagers.
  • There is a critical need to most teenagers to be part of a network with friends.. Hence the amount of time they spend on mobiles, computers, etc. increases in this stage.
  • Teens’ appearances are constantly changing as they are trying to keep up with fashion, their peer group and seniors.
  • The major tussle at this point is creating an identity for oneself. Creating a separate and independent identity from the parents is part of this process and very necessary for the teenager as they mature into adults. This generally leads to increased arguments between the teen and parents and rebellious behaviour.
  • This is the time when most teenagers experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex. A lot of the teenagers get into these behaviours to be a part of the trendy crowd and not to be excluded from their social groups. It’s important for us to understand that this is all part of the immense peer pressure that teenagers face.
  • Friends become extremely important to teens and can have a great influence on their choices. As teens focus more on their peers, that inevitably means they withdraw from parents and family.
  • Teenagers also have a tendency to sleep less as there are so many activities and friends that they are involved with. In fact, teenagers need to get around 8-10 hours of sleep per night, more than the average adult, as their bodies need time and energy to grow and change. This lack of sleep can cause irritability, mood swings and behavioural changes.

These differences don’t excuse teens’ poor behaviour or absolve them from accountability for their actions; but they may help explain why teens behave so impulsively, make poor decisions, have a significant amount of social anxiety and rebelliousness.

As adults if we understand these changes, then we can help the teenager navigate this stage successfully and mature into a happy young adult. If you are having issues with your teenager, then read the next segment ‘Parenting Teenagers’ next week, to find out more on what you, as a parent, can do to help your teen.





Kannika Bharath Iyengar, 27, is a Masters in Counselling from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently consulting in a number of Bangalore-based organisations for work related to autism spectrum disorders and counselling. Kannika counsels people across a range of economic and social backgrounds, and dealing with issues ranging from academic and adolescent to marital problems, old age related issues, aggression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, etc. She is also a passionate baker and loves to use healthy ingredients to make great food, and teach the same to others. A green advocate, Kannika ensures that people around her produce as little waste as possible and make the world greener.

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