Adolescence is a turbulent time for many teenagers as they come to terms with a new identity and seek the approval of peers. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the brain of an adolescent functions much differently than an adult's, because his actions are guided more by the amygdala and less by the frontal cortex. This makes him more likely to act on impulse, get into accidents, become involved in fights and engage in risky behavior. These differences might also be responsible for an adolescent's susceptibility to peer pressure, involvement in risky sexual behaviors, and dangerous drug use.
1. Peer Pressure
The reality of social pressure is extremely relevant to a teenager. KidsHealth reports that peers naturally play a larger role in the life of an adolescent as she receives more independence and compares herself to her friends. The Cool Spot website reports that a teenager wants to appear grown up and hold on to her friendships, and is afraid that if she does not do what her friends are doing, she will face social rejection. Unfortunately, an adolescent girl is most likely uncertain about what she really wants, which makes her especially vulnerable to the effects of peer pressure.
2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
An adolescent is just beginning to discover sexual urges, and according to the National Survey of Family Growth, the average age a teenager has sex for the first time is 17. Because so many teenagers are sexually active, STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, are common among adolescents, according to KidsHealth. The CDC reports that the young adult population, ages 15-24, is responsible for almost half of the 19 million new STD cases per year. STDs can be spread easily because they are not always detectable to the eye, and can also be spread by oral or anal intercourse.
3. Drug Use
Many teenagers are tempted by drug use, especially if their friends are using drugs. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that illicit drug use among teenagers has continued at high rates, mostly because of the popularity of marijuana. In 2012 alone, 6.5 percent of eighth-graders, 17 percent of 10th-graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th-graders used marijuana in the previous month. Additionally, non-medical use of prescription drugs remains a significant part of the teenage drug problem in the United States. In 2012, 14.8 percent of high school seniors used a prescription drug for a non-medical reason.
Suicide is a reality within the adolescent population. The American Psychological Association reports that it is a growing health concern and the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. Distress leading to suicide can be caused by a variety of factors, including psychological, environmental and social factors. Risk factors can include talking about death, low self-esteem, no hope for the future and changes in personality.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: The Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
- Kid's Health: Peer Pressure
- Statistics from the CDC's 2010 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance report and the National Abstinence Education Association's Sexual Risk Avoidance Education: Considerations for Protecting Teen Health Report
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Survey of Family Growth
- Kid's Health: Sexual Health
- DrugFacts: High School and Youth Trends
- American Psychological Association: Teen Suicide is Preventable
- Baptist Press: Teen STD Rates Rise, Despite High Condom Use
- The Cool Spot: Why Peer Pressure Can Work
- Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years; David Pruitt
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images