Features of Adolescents

What is Normal?

Are you a parent of an adolescent? This section is for you. Understanding the features of adolescents would greatly help you to manage the adolescent behavior and also to extend an empathetic care to the teenager, especially when he/she is going through the period of 'storm and stress'.
The following points are talking about the normal features of adolescence that should help a parent to understand the young person's behavior in a positive way.


As part of an overall struggle for independence and freedom the young person rebels against his/her parents. The young person will reject the attitudes, opinions, and advice of parents and may accuse them of being 'old-fashioned', 'stupid', or 'out of touch'. This rebellion may be mild or severe depending upon the temperament of the individual. 

Concern about 'looking good'

Adolescence is a time when the young person is looking for his/her own identity and needs to experiment with different ways of looking. There is a constant preoccupation with appearance and body-image and, as a result, the adolescent will monopolise the bathroom, and spend hours in the bedroom. Although this behaviour is more common among girls, boys are becoming more fashion-conscious and concerned about the way they look.

Increased peer group allegiance

In adolescence, peer group friendships become very important and a lot of time is spent in the company of friends. This influences the adolescent's behaviour, appearance, way of speaking, etc., and is a potential source of friction between the adolescent and his/her parents. The peer group can provide valuable support to an adolescent, and an opportunity to 'let off steam' when things at home get difficult. 

Increased Sex Drive

Because of bodily changes and sexual development young people become more interested in sexual matters. This is one of the major characteristics of adolescence. During this time they will need to learn how to channel the sexual urges they experience into acceptable sexual behaviour. All adolescents need clear information and guidance regarding sexual development, and about forming close relationships. 

Increased Aggressive Drive

Adolescence is a time when young people become more assertive in making demands from adults. When they do not get their own way, they may become more physically resistant and threatening. When this happens parents will need to 'tread carefully' which mean being sensitive and tolerant so that the adolescent can learn to gain control of his/her aggressive urges. 

Mood Swings

All the physical changes of adolescence mean that the young person's emotions are in a state of upheaval too. Moods can change rapidly so that one minute the adolescent is feeling 'on top of the world' and the next they are 'down in the dumps'. These moods are usually brief but parents need to keep an eye on things in case they become more serious and persistent. 

Unpredictable Attitudes and Opinions

Just as young people experiment with ways of looking, so too they experiment with ways of thinking. They can 'try out' a variety of attitudes and opinions, often saying one thing one day, and something entirely different the next. Again, parents need to be patient and tolerant while the adolescent establishes his/her own sense of direction in life. 


This describes those times when a person has conflicting feelings about something in particular and, as a result, is unable to make a decision or to commit themselves. They may be 'in two minds' as to what to do and instead may do nothing. When asked a question he/she may say 'I don't know', 'I am not bothered', or 'I don't care'. This can result in adults putting pressure on young people in order to get a decision from them. They want to help them make the 'right' decision but it can result in the adolescent becoming withdrawn or angry. It is important for a young person to develop his/her own identity and direction, rather than one imposed by other people.
Courtesy: Prof. Michael Kerfoot, Manchester University, United Kingdom.