Teenagers can seem like strange human beings to adults, switching between their sunny childhood selves and surly, moody strangers. The teenage years can be equally unsettling to the adolescents themselves as they learn to adjust to their changing bodies and the different ways of understanding the adult world. Examining personality traits in teens can help parents determine what is typical and acceptable for this age, and what might signal a need for professional assistance in helping the child.
One personality trait of teenagers is that they question their environment. Children who formerly accepted information or advice from parents and teachers might suddenly challenge their authority. Keen observers, teens not only analyze the subtleties of their own social circles but the movements of adults around them, according to an article on the New Mexico University website titled "Understanding Teens." Parents and authority figures might lose legitimacy if they make a simple mistake. As teenagers’ personalities become more confident, they lose some confidence in once accepted power hierarchies.
Many teens share the personality trait of being intensely social. Teenagers want to spend time with friends, whether at school, after school, or on the weekends, according to The Parent Toolkit.org. Family gatherings might lose appeal compared to invitations from friends. When at home, teens continue to spend time with peers via cell phones, social networking sites, or video game chats. Conversely, parents might notice that teens insist on higher levels of privacy. Teenagers might want to protect the conversations they’re having with friends or might simply want alone time to process their day.
Moodiness is another common personality trait among teens, according to the New Mexico University website article. Moodiness can relate to a teenager’s changing understanding of who they are or who they would like to be as they enter adulthood, according to a 2010 article at NYTimes.com. It can also directly relate to hormones. During the teen years, shifting hormones can dramatically alter a teen’s sleep schedule, which can affect mood, according to an article in "The Wall Street Journal" titled "Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock." Teens are known for being sleepy zombies in the morning, then becoming wide-awake and energetic at night.
Teens might inject increased risk-taking into their new adolescent personalities, according to the New Mexico University website article. Driving fast, experimenting with substances, fighting, or engaging in sexual activity can lead to dangerous results. Some risk-taking might be related to peer pressure; other teens might be interested in exploring adult activities as a way to feel more grownup, according to NPR.org. Parents should have a serious discussion about the potential results of these activities with their teens.
Some personality traits of teenagers might signal a need for professional evaluation. Self-injury, such as cutting, is not a typical teenage activity and should be taken seriously, according to Parenting.org. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that depression, suicidal thoughts, and violence should not be accepted as normal teenage personality swings. These should be addressed with a doctor or psychologist.
- New Mexico State University: Understanding Teens
- The Parent Toolkit: Teen Personality Types
- The New York Times: Teen Moodiness, or Borderline Personality Disorder?
- National Public Radio: Understanding the Mysterious Teenage Brain
- The Wall Street Journal: Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
- Parenting.org: Understanding Teen Cutting and Self-Injury
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Teen Risk-Taking: A Statistical Portrait
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images