Adolescence refers to a phase when children undergo numerous changes, including social and biological developments, transitioning from childhood to maturity. During this stage, adolescents are vulnerable to experiencing several problems associated with adolescence, like unhealthy behaviors that can cause significant problems in later life (Martin, 2018). Concerns regarding adolescent behavior are also common during adolescence, making it difficult for parents to connect with their children (Parent et al., 2003). Therefore, to help adolescents, it is essential to understand some of the issues they experience during puberty. These issues include but are not limited to risky taking behaviors, substance use and abuse, and psychological and social problems.
Most risk-taking behaviors for health like sexual and substance use risk-taking begin during the puberty stage. Adolescents engage in risk-taking behaviors as a strategy to cope with their emotional problems, which in turn become unhelpful and severely influence their physical and mental wellbeing. Another risk-taking behavior is the perpetration of violence, increasing the potential of involvement with criminal activity, death, injuries, and low educational attainment. Teens occasionally engage in bullying and physical confrontations; however, the severity and frequency of this activity increase during adolescence. Some factors that contribute to increased episodes of violence among adolescents are poverty, substance use, access to weapons, gang membership, and developmental problems (Sapthiang et al., 2019). Substance use and abuse are also common among adolescents due to their vulnerability to involve on the wrong side. Peer pressure forms one of the most significant drivers for alcohol and tobacco use among teens. In the adolescence phase, teens tend to take risks, which encourages them to abuse drugs before even reaching legal age.
Adolescents also experience behavioral changes due to overwhelming emotions that lead to impulsive behavior, harming themselves and others. During adolescence, teens develop and exercise independence, which gives rise to questioning rules set by parents and standing up for what they believe, is right. Substantial developmental changes in the brain cause adolescents to be challenging to deal with, tired, moody, and even getting pushed to engage in physical confrontations. Due to independence, teens tend to try out new things and take risks, which results in careless behavior. Sometimes, peer pressure also influences how they behave and develop particular habits to fit into the group and avoid confrontation; they lie often.
During adolescence, adolescents experience social problems whereby teens feel naturally awkward in social situations. They want to have an identity of their own and lookup for role models in their surroundings. At this time, also, social interactions increase, as they tend to expand their circle (De Vries et al., 2011). Sexual feelings and thoughts can seem wrong to teens due to guilt. As a result, it influences their self-esteem. Adolescents are likely to experience anxiety and mood disorders that affect their mental health. Girls are more vulnerable to developing depressive disorders than boys are, and with the rise of feelings of superiority and inferiority from teens, appearance causes confidence or self-esteem issues.
Furthermore, these issues experienced during puberty have an immense impact on adolescents’ physical health, psychological or mental health, and academic performance. Substance abuse among teens causes long-standing and significant effects on the body. Associated short-term effects that manifest include changes in breathing, drowsiness, irregular heart rate, and diarrhea. Adolescents can suffer from gum and dental deterioration, insomnia, brain damage, and respiratory problems in the long term. In addition, substances affect mental state, causing individuals to take unnecessary risks or involve in self-harm and aggressive behaviors towards others. Physical confrontation and violence can result in physical injuries between conflicting teens, affecting their physical health. Injuries can be sources of spread and entry of pathogens, causing illness that lowers a person’s productivity and even causes death. Peer pressure leading to risky behaviors also influences sexual health due to the occurrence of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs among adolescents can affect their psychological wellbeing and lower self-esteem.
Hormonal, body, social environment, and brain changes occurring during adolescence increase vulnerability to mental health problems. Adolescents become prone to developing mental illnesses such as psychosis, substance use disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. According to Martin (2018), exposure of teens to abuse and violence, deteriorates their mental wellbeing, leading to defiant and risky behaviors, social exclusion, and stigmatization. Negative peer pressure influences individual mental health as it causes a decrease in self-esteem, increased emotional vulnerability, increased anxiety and depression, poor academic performance, and the development of antisocial behaviors.
Substance use and abuse among adolescents results in interaction with antisocial peer groups that in turn causes diminishing of school engagement and increase other social and behavioral problems. Substance use affects school completion, attendance, and grades, affecting intellectual functioning influencing dropout (Sapthiang et al., 2019). Some of the adverse academic outcomes that result from substance abuse among teens are due to its impact on cognitive skills. As a result, it causes strained relationships, poor academic performance, increased likelihood of dropping out, and higher absenteeism rates from school and other activities. A substance such as marijuana affects memory, attention, and ability to learn; therefore, when adolescents use their brain fails to function to its best potential.
Educators have played an essential role in effectively addressing adolescent changes to promote students’ healthy development and school functioning. First, it would be crucial to develop an awareness program that allows all students to understand their body changes and what to expect during adolescence to address the issue affecting teens. In the program, the adolescents should be assisted to adapt to those changes and must be explained that it is normal for their bodies to change as they grow. According to Sapthiang et al. (2019), to overcome the psychological problems, it will be required to initiate and maintain a healthy lifestyle in school to prevent the onset of depression and other mental disorders.
Furthermore, all students will be encouraged to communicate openly and avoid brushing away their feelings, which can worsen the situation. It is noted that substance use and abuse are common among teens. Therefore, to address this problem, the first measure will be to keep an eye on the child’s behavior and look for erratic behavior and changes in moods. Students will be encouraged to talk openly and honestly and discuss the problem with them. Behavioral issues among adolescence can make life difficult for educators; however, it is essential to understand it as a passing stage that is entirely normal. Gaining the student’s trust will help resolve behavioral issues as they will be willing to share their feelings. The school will also develop activities and exercise plans that help them increase strength, endure problems, and relieve stress or mental issues.
De Vries, A. L., Steensma, T. D., Doreleijers, T. A., & Cohen‐Kettenis, P. T. (2011). Puberty suppression in adolescents with gender identity disorder: A prospective follow‐up study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8(8), 2276-2283.
Martin, K. A. (2018). Puberty, sexuality, and the self: Boys and girls at adolescence. Routledge.
Parent, A. S., Teilmann, G., Juul, A., Skakkebaek, N. E., Toppari, J., & Bourguignon, J. P. (2003). The timing of normal puberty and the age limits of sexual precocity: variations around the world, secular trends, and changes after migration. Endocrine Reviews, 24(5), 668-693.
Sapthiang, S., Van Gordon, W., & Shonin, E. (2019). Mindfulness in schools: A health promotion approach to improving adolescent mental health. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17(1), 112-119.