Adolescence is a phase of human development that involves many significant changes in psychological, physical, and social dimensions. These changes may either provide opportunities for a successful transition from childhood to adulthood or present threats to youth’s well-being in the future. One area of adolescent development to be covered in this paper is deviant behaviors, including sexual activity and drug and alcohol use. Further, this essay will identify the importance of this area and the existing scientific knowledge on the topic.
The Importance of the Topic to Adolescent Development
Adolescence is a human development stage that is distinguished by a rise in deviant behaviors. In particular, Ragan (2020) reports that, in adolescence, the rates of alcohol and drug use increase dramatically. Teenagers also engage in sexual activity, which is considered a “status offense” because it is acceptable in adults but unacceptable in adolescents (Dornbusch, 1989, p. 250). According to Dornbusch (1989), 17% of males and 6% of females have had sexual intercourse by the age of 15, and these figures increase with age. Teenagers’ sexual activity becomes more prevalent with rising social acceptance of premarital sexual relationships, which results from the postponement of marriage. Adolescent sexual activity is an issue primarily because it may lead to early pregnancies and STDs since, as Dornbusch (1989) notes, most adolescents do not use contraceptives during their first sexual intercourse. Drug and alcohol use can also have long-term consequences, preventing teenagers’ successful transition into adulthood. Given the high prevalence of deviant behaviors among adolescents and their potential long-lasting negative effects, the importance of this topic cannot be underestimated. Studying the causes of teenagers’ deviant behaviors is crucial for developing effective interventions.
What Is Known on the Topic
Several social factors affecting adolescent development may contribute to teenagers’ engagement in deviant behaviors. For example, adolescents’ sexual activity may be influenced by their relationships with parents and family structure. Those with closer relationships with their parents and coming from two-parent families demonstrate lower levels of sexual activity (Dornbusch, 1989). Other important social factors affecting deviant behaviors are social environment and peer pressure. According to Ragan (2020), when adolescents socialize with their peers, they may find themselves in situations where delinquent activities may appear rewarding and encouraged. Furthermore, peers’ engagement in such acts as drug or alcohol use provides opportunities for deviant behaviors and influences social norms surrounding such behaviors. As Ragan (2020) notes, these opportunities and norms affect adolescents’ identity development because they tend to imitate behaviors that they perceive as valued. Thus, family, peers, and social norms prevalent in their environment have an impact on adolescents’ deviant behaviors.
Psychological factors also may contribute to teenagers’ engagement in delinquent acts. During adolescence, individuals undergo psychosocial changes that can serve as the cause for deviant behaviors. In particular, engagement in drug or alcohol use can fulfill a psychosocial function of a transition marker for adolescents who want to affirm their mature status (Ragan, 2020). Further, teenagers’ psychosocial development gives them autonomy, which can also affect their involvement in deviant activities. According to Ragan (2020), adolescent development brings autonomy from parents, which makes the influence of peers on teenagers greater because genuine autonomy does not start until late adolescence. Thus, under the conditions of less parental supervision and more time spent with peers, adolescents are at a higher risk of engaging in deviant behaviors encouraged by their friends.
To sum up, deviant behaviors, such as sexual activity and drug or alcohol use, are prevalent in adolescents and may have long-term negative impact on their future well-being. Peer influence, family structure and relationships, and increasing autonomy from parents may contribute to adolescents’ engagement in deviant activities. In order to prevent their involvement in delinquent acts, interventions addressing these factors can be developed and implemented in schools and families.
Dornbusch, S. M. (1989). The sociology of adolescence. Annual Review of Sociology, 15(1989), 233-259.
Ragan, D. T. (2020). Similarity between deviant peers: Developmental trends in influence and selection. Criminology, 58(2), 336-369.