What is typical adolescent behavior?

Adolescents have the reputation for being surly, uncommunicative, moody, argumentative and flippant - sometimes all at the same time! These behaviors, when exhibited from time to time, may be normal for teens because being a teen is tough. So you may want to understand the typical underlying causes that might be leading to these less attractive teen traits.

First off, your teen is going to try to gain some independence, which can lead to challenges to parental or school authority. Second, your teen is having a bit of an identity crisis as he/she also tries to figure out who he/she wants to be. Even more importantly, you should realize that your teen is terribly worried he/she might not measure up. Keep these points in mind as you seek to understand some of these other typical teen behaviors:


  • Backtalk, especially as he/she begins to understand that adults aren't perfect
  • Exploring and trying new things as he/she explores new identities
  • Some physical awkwardness as he/she starts growing into his/her new body
  • Frustration stemming from what he/she can't yet do
  • Increasing skills in some areas as he/she begins doing new things
  • Increasing curiosity with sex and his/her own sexual development
  • Selfishness and some self-absorption
  • Searching out new role models (as opposed to you, the parent)

When you try to assess what should be typical for your teen, keep in mind his/her particular personality. Also look at his/her peer group to get a sense of what constitutes "typical" in terms of dress, music, values and attitudes. This isn't to say you need to just see your teen's peer group's typical behavior as acceptable -- perhaps your teen is hanging with the wrong peer group. The critical issue is whether your teen's typical behaviors are interfering with his/her ability to get through school, be a part of your family, develop friendships and engage in healthy activities.