What Is Typical Adolescent Behavior?

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Raising a child can be challenging, and the adolescent years often have unique challenges. As your child transitions to adulthood, they may become moody, resentful, curious, afraid, confused—or all of the above. 

Being able to anticipate and recognize the whirlwind of emotions and behaviors your teen may experience in this phase of life can help you better understand how to support them along the way and reduce the risk of mental illness. It may also allow you to distinguish between typical teen behavior and worrisome patterns that could benefit from professional support.

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Common elements of adolescent behavior

Every adolescent is different, so considering your child’s uniqueness may be beneficial when considering what behavior is typical for them. However, below are a few common behaviors in teenagers that make up the many physical, emotional, and cognitive developments in adolescence

Verbal aggression

Verbal aggression, to an extent, can be a typical behavior in teens, especially boys. The cause may be a combination of significant hormonal changes due to puberty and a natural desire for more independence than was available in childhood. This tension may cause teenagers to lash out by yelling, arguing, and using hurtful words toward their loved ones. 

While some level of verbal aggression is typical, it can be risky if it leads to abusive behavior or escalates into a physical attack. In these cases, it may indicate abnormal aggression caused by a mental health challenge. A mental health professional like a therapist may be able to prevent your teenager from becoming dangerous to themselves or others by supporting them in identifying the underlying causes of this behavior and addressing them. 

Lack of frustration tolerance

Teens often live with a barrage of changes to their bodies and brains, academic and social pressures, and the stress of figuring out who they are and their future. However, they might not adequately have the tools or strategies to cope with frustration. Their brain development is still in progress, and they may not have learned healthy coping skills earlier in life. 

Research suggests children learn frustration tolerance through relationships with primary caregivers and trusted adults. As their caregiver, try modeling calm and constructive ways to deal with frustration. Exhibiting empathy and collaboration may make it easier to relate to your child when frustrated and allow you to provide advice, guidance, or a listening ear when they’re dysregulated. 

Lack of impulse control

It can be expected for your teenager to show low impulse control. Because the decision-making and future-thinking areas of their brains are still developing, it’s not uncommon for some adolescents to act in the moment without considering the consequences. 

These consequences can be significant for teens, potentially affecting academic outcomes, getting them in legal trouble, or risking their health or safety. In addition, teens can be at risk of forming substance use patterns. When their lack of impulse control causes problems like these, parents may find it worthwhile to consider enlisting the help of a mental health provider so they can learn how to manage their impulses in a healthy, safe way.

Research suggests that experience can form a child’s innate level of impulsive, risk-taking behavior and adjust it if it becomes problematic. According to one study, “early interventions” can reduce the severity and impact of this trait, such as specific training programs for expectant parents, which can help them model appropriate impulse control for their children. 

Withdrawal from family

During the early years of life, most of your child’s social interaction was probably with family. It’s typical for this dynamic to shift as they enter adolescence. They may start withdrawing from family and spending more time with friends their age. While it can be a difficult adjustment for parents and siblings, it’s often a healthy stage of development and should be encouraged. 

However, noticing your teen withdrawing from all social interaction may indicate an underlying mental health concern. According to experts, social withdrawal is one of the primary symptoms of depression, which is a mental illness that often requires treatment. Adolescents may also be more at risk of developing substance use disorders.

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Sleep changes 

A teenager’s body often grows quickly between the ages of 14 and 17. Due to these changes, the body requires more sleep, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting teens needing at least eight to ten hours of sleep per night. As they grow, they may sleep longer and harder than usual.

You may notice that your teen is reluctant to get out of bed in the morning, goes to bed early, and sleeps for stretches of up to 12 hours on the weekends. However, if they start consistently sleeping deeply for more than 12 hours a night, it may indicate a mental or physical illness.

Abrupt adjustments in sleeping patterns, low energy levels, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and other signs of withdrawal could mean that your teen is showing symptoms of depression. Seeking support from a mental health professional in this case can be wise. 

Difficulty with physical image 

In adolescence, some people show more concern about their physical appearance—often due to rapid and sometimes confusing or uncomfortable body changes and an increased awareness of peer status. As a result, you may notice that your child becomes pickier about their clothing, spends more time getting ready, and tries out new styles within a short period. 

However, if your teenager starts rapidly dropping weight, drastically changes their eating habits, or stops eating in your presence, it could indicate an eating disorder. In this case, seek professional help from a primary care physician and a mental health provider since these disorders can be serious. 

Research suggests adolescence is a pivotal stage for a positive or negative body image to be formed. That’s why speaking to your child about body acceptance and forming healthy habits at this age can be helpful.

How to support your child during adolescence

The behaviors listed above are normal in moderation. Knowing this may help you give your child the space to have the appropriate formative experiences for their age. Recognizing if they cross into potentially dangerous or harmful behaviors can help you connect them with professional guidance if required. 

A few other strategies may help you provide support during this stage. First, striving to maintain open communication with them can be crucial. While they may not choose to confide in you, knowing that you’ll provide a calm, nonjudgmental listening ear when they have a problem can make a difference. Additionally, allowing them to make safe, age-appropriate mistakes can be a part of their growth and development, whereas sheltering them from any consequences may prevent them from learning important lessons. Finally, you might consider connecting them with a supportive therapist.

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How therapy can benefit adolescents

While you might want to offer guidance to your teenager, they may not be inclined to take it during adolescence. Self-exploration, fear of judgment, or believing they’re misunderstood are a few reasons teens may pull back from their parents’ tips. For that reason, they may benefit from having a counselor they can confide in. 

Recent research shows that 72% of adolescents would choose an online therapist if they experienced a mental health condition because they value the stigma reduction and convenience of online therapy. Virtual therapy sessions can also be more available for teens since they can have them from anywhere and don’t need transportation. Additionally, they may be less intimidating than visiting a therapist’s office. 

If you’re interested in seeking counseling for your adolescent to help them cope with the changes of this phase of life, consider an online therapy platform like BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling. TeenCounseling is explicitly designed for those between the ages of 13 and 18, allowing your teen to get matched with a licensed therapist with your consent. They can meet with their provider via phone, video, or online chat to address their concerns.


Identifying typical adolescent behavior can make it easier for parents and guardians to spot potential signs of concern if any develop. Adolescence can be a turbulent, confusing time, but support from family and a trained counselor can help smooth the transition. Consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to get started.
Adolescence can be a challenging life stage
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