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Demystifying teenage rebellion Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 28th, 2019


Adolescence is a transformational phase, which marks the transition between childhood and adulthood and it comes with many physical manifestations of the involved changes. However, the phase is also infamous for rebellious behavior.

Most parents lack an understanding of the occurrence of rebellion, and thus they blame it on environmental changes. Such presumptions suggest that rebellious behavior is avoidable through changes in the environment. Some of the most common acts of rebellion include challenging parental authority, drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage marriages and pregnancies among others.

However, some scientific theories suggest that there is more behind the behavior than mere surroundings. Various researchers have developed theories that suggest that psychological development in children as they transition into adulthood is the core reason for such actions. This paper examines opinions from various scholars based on their research on teenage behavior, especially their justification of teenage rebellion.

Literature review on teenage rebellion

In recent years, scholars have presented various viewpoints regarding the causes and progression of rebellion among teenagers. For instance, Pilecki and McKay, authors of the article, “the theory-practice gap in cognitive Behavior Therapy”, explain that although parents think that teenage rebellion emanates from peer pressure, such is not often the case. According to Pilecki and McKay (2013), parents often blame children without consideration of their contributions to such behavior.

Both authors refer to previous research on human development to justify their findings. Pilecki and McKay (2013) agree with Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Kohlberg developed a theory of moral development that explains the relation between stages of growth and a person’s behavior.

According to Kohlberg, human moral development occurs in three stages, viz. the pre-conventional stage, the conventional stage, and the post-conventional stage. The first stage occurs during early childhood, between birth and the age of twelve years. He explains that at this stage, children establish their perception of morality through the application of principles of reward and punishment.

In essence, children tend to do more of the activities that yield reward and less of those that result in punishment. People transition into teenage, their view of morality changes and they shift their focus to conformity with the law, using the actions of adults around them and people they consider role models, as their moral compass. This means that teenagers form their opinions of morality from adults in the society.

The last stage occurs at adulthood. At this stage, people form their own ideas on behavior they consider moral as opposed to adoption of society’s ideology (Chu & Way, 2009). An analysis of this theory reveals that cognitive development and the environment are key influences to a person’s actions, especially during teenage.

Chu and Way (2009) posit that parents and guardians should thus recognize the normalcy of rebellion against authority as it occurs to their children. The authors also explain that parents and guardians ought to recognize their roles as part of the environment that surrounds teenagers and the subsequent basis for most of the ideas that they develop hence causing rebellious behavior.

Teenage stage forms the phase where most people acquire ideas of morality from the entire society, and not just parents and guardians, as is the case with children. Therefore, it is possible for teenagers to adopt perceptions of morality that are different from those of parents or guardians leading to rebellion (Chu & Way, 2009).

The other group of contemporary scholars that base their evidence on past research concerning the subject matter at hand is Palatnik and Seidman (2012).

Their article, Mothers and teenage daughters on sexual behavior, bears significant similarities to those of Pileck and McKay in terms of apportioning blame to parents for the moral decisions that their children make. The article is mostly descriptive in nature, explaining findings of their study concerning the involvement of mothers in teen pregnancies. According to the authors, teenage daughters pick moral cues from their mothers regarding the propriety of early pregnancies.

Palatnik and Seidman (2012) blame parents for ignoring the need to reveal certain information on sexual behavior, thus leaving teenage girls vulnerable to experimentation. When parents blame such teenagers for making the wrong choices, it often results in acts of rebellion (Palatnik & Seidman, 2012). The authors use Jean Piaget’s theory to explain the link of teenage thinking, parental responsibilities, and rebellious behavior.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that as people mature physically, they also do so psychologically. During psychological development, children form a specific understanding of their environment. However, as they grow older, they experience discrepancies between their notions of reality and their ever-changing environment resulting in a state of mental conflict.

Palatnik and Siedman (2012) hold that resolving such conflict becomes easier as people grow older and form flexible views about their environments. During teenage, many internal and external changes happen to the human body. Some of these changes include an increase of hormones and growth or body parts, creating a different approach to handling one’s body. Psychologically, individuals become more aware of their surroundings and gain the ability to analyze situations before acting on them.

However, sometimes reconciling preconceived notions to changes in one’s environment becomes difficult and the situation becomes worse when parents try to intervene by instilling their own perceptions of reality, thus leading to rebellion.

Parents ought to understand that teenagers need space to understand the changes in their bodies and environment without trying to fast track the psychological process (Palatnik & Siedman, 2012). Additionally, some children grow physically faster than others do, and similarly some teenagers develop cognitive abilities faster than their counterparts do.

Rebellion is thus normal for all teenagers, even though it occurs at different levels depending on individual growth. Authors, Haegerich and Tolan (2008) explain that parents possess the ability to prevent rebellious behavior by understanding the psychological development of their children and accepting blame for ignoring their responsibilities in the development of rebellious behavior.


Teenage rebellion is a normal occurrence that stems from an individual’s psychological transformation from childhood to adulthood. Although environmental factors such as peer pressure contribute to such behavior, development of cognitive ability forms the core reason why such behavior exist at higher levels during teenage than it does during childhood and adulthood. The forms of rebellion that teenagers choose to apply depend on notions of morality that they cultivate during their childhood years.

Therefore, although it may be difficult to eliminate rebellion, it is possible for parents to control the form and level of rebellious behavior from their teenage children through ensuring exposure to the form of moral behavior that they would like their children to adopt during teenage years. It is also important to let teenagers experience and understand their environments during this confusing phase as trying to fast track such understanding also leads to rebellion.

Reference List

Chu, J., & Way, N. (2009). Presence in relationship: a new construct for understanding adolescent friendships and psychological health. Thymos, 3(1), 50-73.

Haegerich, M., & Tolan, P. (2008). Core competencies and the prevention of adolescent substance use. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 122, 47-60.

Palatnik, A., & Seidman, D. (2012). Survey of opinions of mothers and teenage daughters on sexual behavior and contraception: descriptive study and literature review. International Journal of Women’s Health, 4, 265-270.

Pilecki, B., & McKay, D. (2013).The theory-practice gap in cognitive-behavior therapy. Behavior Therapy, 44(4), 541-47.

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