Young pretty troubled girl at psychologist's office

Manage Your Troubled Teens

Adolescence, which can start as early as 6th grade and lead into young adulthood, is a difficult transition time for everyone involved. Rapidly changing bodies as well as increasing academic and social pressures can make this life stage a rollercoaster ride for the teenager as well as the parent. Mood swings, rebellion and personality shifts are normal; however, sometimes these behaviors go too far. A troubled teen usually has some if not all of these warning signs:

  • Change in peer group
  • Pulling back from family
  • Grades and school performance drop
  • Lying about where they are
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Change in financial status
  • Drastic clothing style change

Troubled teenagers exhibiting these warning signs may turn to substance abuse, exhibit depression and suicidal behaviors, develop eating disorders, have unsafe sexual encounters, drop out of school, run away, and even engage in criminal activities.

Issues Plaguing Young Adults

The teenage years, ranging from age 13 to 19, are fraught with change and turbulence. These pressures can overload young adults whose brains and reasoning skills aren't fully developed. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Monitoring the Future Study report that:

  • About 53 percent of high schoolers have had sexual intercourse.
  • Approximately 44 percent of 12th graders have smoked cigarettes.
  • About 43 percent of high school students have tried alcohol.
  • The National Campaign published that there were 29.4 teenage births out of 1,000 girls in 2013.
  • Eighteen percent of teenagers have carried a weapon.
  • Twelve percent of high school students have been in a physical fight at school in the past year, according to the CDC.
  • Ten percent of adolescents drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
  • Ten percent of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have tried an illicit drug in the past month.
  • Eight percent of teens have attempted suicide.
  • Psychology Today reports that 7 percent of America's teens are in a gang.

In addition to these statistics, SAMSA publishes that 12 percent of young adults have received some form of mental health counseling or treatment for emotional or behavioral issues in an education setting. Depression was the number one cause plaguing 46 percent of these teens with 27.8 percent having family or home issues, 26.1 percent were acting out or breaking rules, and another 20.7 percent exhibited suicidal behaviors. According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 24, taking 4,600 lives each year. Substance abuse is an issue among today's youth. The Monitoring the Future Study reports that marijuana is the number one abused drug for teens, and use has increased in recent years to 25.8 percent of students using it in the past month and 3.7 percent claiming daily use. Furthermore, NCADD publishes that kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are five times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol.  They also report that alcohol and drugs are the prevailing factors in teenage suicide and the leading cause of juvenile crime.

Juveniles and the Law

The American Psychological Association reports that 1 million juveniles end up in court each year with 160,000 of them being referred to residential treatment centers, detention facilities group homes, and correctional institutions. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention published that in 2011, 4,367 youths ages 10 through 17 were arrested per 100,000 young adults. Of those arrests, 202 were for violent crimes like murder, robbery, rape and aggravated assault. Property crimes accounted for 995 arrests while other offenses like vandalism, disorderly conduct, and runaways were slightly lower. Many studies have been performed that highlight helping juvenile delinquents and offenders by intervening, and counseling these young adults is more effective than detention and arrest. Juvenile offenders involved in primary intervention programs are between 50 and 65 percent less likely to be arrested again.

Getting Help for Troubled Teenagers

Parents of teenagers need to be vigilant and involved in their lives. Know where your child is, whom they are with, what they are doing, and when they will be home. Opening the lines of communication and staying connected are important. Watch for the warning signs that they are entering troubled territory. For adolescents that have crossed the line, early intervention is key. Teens suffering from a mental health disorder may show the warning signs of troubled teens, and the underlying issue may be missed. Seeking professional help to diagnose and set up a method of treatment can literally be a lifesaver. Therapies including individual counseling, behavioral therapy, interpersonal skills, and group and family therapy can all be effective; specific treatment plans should be catered to the individual in question. Adolescents may require substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, or a combination of these programs. Most professionals agree that family support is vital in helping young adults lead successful lives. Parents need to support themselves as well as their teenager. Joining a family support group where others can relate to your struggles may be very helpful, as confronting a troubled teen can be stressful and even dangerous experience. A skilled professional can help to set you and your family on a path to a brighter future.