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Rebellion in adolescence: why it appears and what to do

Rebellion in adolescence: why it appears and what to do

June 10, 2024

Whether we have lived it in our time or because we have children or relatives in that moment of development, most of the population knows that the stage of adolescence is a complicated stage of life. It is common during this period of development and maturation to appear quarrels, arguments or even conflicts in the relationship between parents and children, or between adolescents and adults in general. The rebellion in adolescence it is one of the main points that can make contact between the youngest and the adults difficult.

But although sometimes it can be frustrating for both "sides", it is not something strange or bad: a great majority of people have had at some point some type of rebellious and challenging phase with what is established, being something not only frequent but also healthy for the development of one's identity. In this article we will briefly talk about what this phase of rebellion and why how to react to it in education and family context .


  • Related article: "The 3 stages of adolescence"

Adolescence: a complex stage

The first thing we have to take into account when talking about adolescence is the fact that, regardless of whether rebellion is present or not, we are facing a complicated and strange moment. Adolescence is the most relevant period of maturation and growth of our development, being this stage the passage towards the adult age from the childhood and happening approximately between the eleven and the twenty years of age.

In adolescence comes puberty and the body begins to undergo an accelerated transformation. Sexual characters appear, our voice changes, our size and strength increase to a great extent and great hormonal changes take place. They alter our mood and our behavior .


At the same time, the infantile stage begins to be left behind, and increasingly complicated, more adult demands begin to appear on the part of society. Begins to demand some responsibility for the acts themselves and begins to give more and more importance to social relations.

Parents stop seeing themselves as perfect beings and they begin to see their limitations and the differences between them and the adolescent, even though they are still dependent on them. Usually there is a certain distancing from the family and the friendships go on to focus the attention and the preference of the future adult.

The thought also changes, both as an effect of the cerebral maturational changes and by the psychosocial changes derived from them. It will be during the course of adolescence when many of the executive functions are developed , such as the capacity for planning, goal orientation, initiation of control and inhibition of behavior, the organization of one's activity or mental flexibility.


It is also an exploration stage In addition to all the above, new possibilities are opening up and a greater openness and search for experiences appears. Also, little by little, identity will be generated as different behavioral patterns are explored and the nuclear values ​​that will drive our behavior are selected.

Taking all this into account, adolescence can become very distressing and generate a great tension in those who suffer it, being able to react with a certain hostility and being habitual to appear a certain rebellion.

The rebellion in the adolescent: why does it happen?

Observing the previous point, we can identify and take into account some of the reasons why rebellion may appear in adolescents. Below are some of them.

1. Biological and hormonal changes

Some of the rebellion present in the adolescent has a biological origin (although this should not serve as a justification for undesirable behavior). On the one hand, the brain and especially the frontal lobe and especially the prefrontal are not yet fully developed, this being the main biological substrate that allows the development of skills such as the ability to inhibit response , control and management capacity or motivation and goal orientation.

It also highlights the fact that the brain of a teenager is much more sensitive to the stimulation of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which promotes experimentation and the pursuit of pleasurable sensations (being something that favors, for example, the taking of risky and dangerous attitudes for health itself).

In addition to this, we must also take into account the presence of hormonal changes Testosterone is associated, for example, with an increase in competitiveness and aggressiveness, while the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle (which appears at puberty) can more easily generate irritability and changes in mood.

2. Self-centered thinking

Another reason for adolescent rebellion is the assumption of a self-centered thought typical of age: the adolescent thinks himself invulnerable and omnipotent, being excessively confident in his own ideas and presenting biases that diminish the importance of information contrary to them.

It is more complex to detect and accept the existence of alternative visions of reality that are equally valid (although they may be opposed), considering them false or mistaken.

3. Search for autonomy and identity creation

Another of the main causes of rebellion is the search for autonomy and the creation of personal identity. The adolescent is at a stage where You need to experiment in order to determine who is , performing different behaviors and observing whether or not they adjust to their values ​​and preferences or the effects they have.

Rebellion can also be a search for autonomy, an attempt that authority figures recognize him not as a child or with a submissive role but as an active and independent agent. He may be asking for a reduction in the limits that have existed up to now or try to achieve to observe himself as an independent subject.

While rebellion often seen as frustrating or as a response to an unrecognized authority , the certain thing is that the rebellious adolescent can also in the end be asking for limits to be set that indicate that he is right or wrong, how far he can go or what is expected of him.

5. Confusion about changes and demands

We have already indicated that the adolescent is immersed in a stage of continuous changes and contradictions: he is not a child but he is not an adult, responsibilities are demanded that until now did not exist and although he wants autonomy, he still wants the affection of the family environment.

It is also common that they do not know where to direct their efforts, something that can generate great frustration . Likewise, the adolescent tends to feel misunderstood, not being his experience shared by others in the same way or with the same intensity. Rebellion can also appear as a response of frustration to these contradictions and sensations.

6. Interpersonal and social conflicts

During adolescence, it is common for different interpersonal conflicts to appear. It is the stage in which friendships are more important, displacing the family in terms of focus of affection, and also in which the first couple relationships begin. Likewise academic life becomes more demanding , which can lead to frustrations. All this can have an effect on the adolescent, with rebelliousness appearing as a means of escape or emotional ventilation.

7. More severe problems

The phenomena discussed so far are normative, but we can not ignore the possibility that rebellion or irritability may appear in response to aversive or painful situations that are not the usual ones For example, the experience of school bullying, consumption of toxins, abuse of some kind or the suffering of a mental health problem such as depression.

What to do before a rebellious teenager?

It can be difficult to relate to a rebellious teenager, but the first thing that we have to take into account is that, with some exceptions, rebellion is actually positive since in the long run it will help them find their own way independently. The fact that there was rebellion it does not mean that you stop wanting your environment or that he has stopped needing his protection.

We must first try to be empathetic and understand the profound changes that the adolescent is suffering. The fluid communication between environment and adolescent It is also very important. It is not about forcing him to talk if he does not really want to, but to make people see that he is willing to listen. Share your own experience can also be useful (all adults have gone through adolescence, at the end of the day) at the time they can have some kind of behavior model, although advice not requested usually not usually well received.

And almost more important than talking is listening, being relevant that the child feels heard. The teenager He is no longer a child and his opinion should be taken into account , besides that an active listening favors the expression of fears and doubts that other types of attitudes would not allow. Likewise, discussing and assessing opinion on different topics can help to improve mutual understanding.

Another aspect to take into account is the social environment in which the child moves. As we have seen previously friendships have become one of the most important influences , being relevant to favor (without forcing) positive environments and analyze problems such as school bullying.

We must also try not to be authoritarian and respect the freedom and autonomy of the adolescent: in case of disagreement, negotiation can be an optimal way to find a position that pleases both parties. The prohibition or the unjustified punishment will only generate reactance and a possible more marked disobedience. That yes, that the rebellion is to a certain point good should not cross certain limits: you should not tolerate obvious disrespect or aggression, and the fact of negotiating does not imply yielding to everything you want.

Bibliographic references:

  • Siegel, D. (2014). Brain Storm Barcelona: Alba.
  • Weyandt, L, L. & Willis, W.G. (1994). Executive function in school - aged children: potential efficacy of tasks in discriminating clinical groups. Developmental Neuropsychology. 10, 27-38.

The Only 2 Reasons a Teenager Rebels (June 2024).


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