Aggressive adolescents: causes and prevention

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Robert Maurer

Aggressive adolescents: causes and prevention

Aggression during adolescence is recurrent and can manifest itself for multiple causes. How does this relate to coping strategies? How to prevent it? We explain it to you in the following lines.

Last update: February 01, 2022

Adolescence is a phase in which the sheer amount of challenges can be a source of stress for the individual (school-related problems, uncertainty about the future, social pressure, etc.). This is how it is defined by Solís and Vidal (2006), in a study published in the Hermilio Valdizan Journal of Psychiatry and Mental Health. For this reason, it is common to have to deal with aggressive teens. A real challenge for parents and educators.

Aggression can manifest itself in several ways, which sometimes depend on coping strategies. In this article we will analyze the definition of aggression, focusing mainly on theadolescence as a critical period for the formation of personality and the acquisition of habits.

Aggressive teenagers according to science

According to Osorio (2013), aggression is "one of the tactics at the service of social competition, one of the normal skills of the human behavioral repertoire, which aims to obtain a favorable balance in conflicting interactions (ie between gain / loss, victory / defeat)".

Where does the line between aggression and violence lie? According to the author, based on the physical damage. However, according to Tobeña (2001), this is a very imprecise distinction, since, for example, it is not necessary to cause physical injury to behave aggressively; behavior that has the purpose of diminishing, annoying or showing prejudice of any kind towards others may be sufficient.

A study by Mestre et al. (2012) analyzed the relationship between coping strategies and adolescent emotions to determine to what extent these are variables related to aggressive behaviors.

The results show that very aggressive and non-aggressive adolescents use very different coping mechanisms; in particular, Aggressive teens more often resort to an unproductive coping method. Less aggressive subjects, on the other hand, apply strategies that are more focused on solving the problem.

Coping and aggression strategies

It is possible to see that aggression during adolescence and at other stages of life also relates to the individual coping strategy (or strategies). Remember that we use coping strategies to deal with adversity or problems. A person who exhibits aggressive behavior is more likely to use maladaptive strategies.

Frydenberg, a scholar of coping strategies, focused on adolescence to develop her theory, which includes up to 18 different strategies. These 18 methods are grouped into three groups:

  • Problem resolution- Includes methods such as focusing on the solution and relying on close friends, among other factors.
  • Reference to others: includes, for example, the search for social support.
  • Non-productive coping: worry, give yourself false hope, ignore the problem.

Frydenberg (1997) asserts that many of the risk behaviors adopted by adolescents, such as drug use, sexual promiscuity, violence or aggression, they are a response to their inability to address certain challenges or problems.

Coping strategies and aggression in adolescents are two interrelated elements.

Tools to offer to aggressive teens

How to prevent aggression in adolescents? A key tool will be early emotional education; as well as an affable, positive and respectful parenting style.

In this sense, a study by Del Barrio et al. (2009) tried to lay the foundations for preventing the onset of aggression in children and adolescents through the information available on the relationship between parenting habits and aggression.

A systematic review identified a number of elements relating to parenting particularly relevant in order to prevent aggressive conduct in adolescent children. These three factors are:

  • Relaxation of maternal hostility.
  • Control of the behavior of children.
  • Improve emotional communication.

It is clear that working on communication is essential to prevent aggression during adolescence (and childhood). Promoting assertive communication styles, for example, can help prevent aggression.

Remember that in communication aggression is an extreme, as is passivity. The middle way, therefore, allows us to obtain assertiveness, which is the best resource.

There are alternatives to aggression

Aggression during adolescence is a behavioral alternative that can be very tempting. It can have several origins: personality building, inability to adequately deal with problems (deficits in coping strategies), family problems, conflicting relationships with peers, little tolerance to frustration, not fully formed prefrontal cortex, etc.

The form and intensity with which aggression manifests itself can also vary greatly: physical violence, verbal violence, aggressive communication style, etc. The best tool to combat aggression is prevention.

Meeting other teenagers at school, at home or in other gathering places and providing them with tools for self-control and emotional regulation are the best measures we can take to prevent them from becoming aggressive.

It is essential offer young people alternative (adequate) coping strategies, how to speak, reflect, breathe, relativize; and make them resort to them before making use of aggression.

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