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Teen Friendships and Teen Behavior


teenage friends

Every person is different, and each teenager will mature through their adolescence at a varied pace, while encountering nuanced and unique challenges. The needs of each young person vary drastically, and often continuously shift as they enter new stages of their lives. While there have been countless parenting books published, the truth is that no child is born with an instruction manual. As parents, it is our role to help support our children through these trying times, while simultaneously encouraging the progression of their process of individuation. It is normal to assume that your child will always come to you first to express their needs and wants and share their thoughts and desires, and while this may happen for a period of time, it will likely change during adolescence. Neurotypical children shift their alliances from their parents to their friends during their teenage years. 

Why Are Teen Friendships Important?

Healthy teen friendships can provide adolescents with a sense of acceptance and belonging. Peer relationships can support the development of compassion, empathy, and consideration. For a teenager, good friends can be akin to a personal support group. Healthy friendships can provide teens with: 

  • A sense of security and comfort that accompanies going through shared/ similar experiences
  • A social group with which to try new things 
  • A way to experiment with different roles, identities, values and ideas
  • Help in developing confidence
  • A place to share, and learn information regarding the physical and emotional changes that come with going through puberty
  • Experience in early romantic and/ or sexual relationships
  • Practicing conflict resolution   

Teen friendships are integral to a young person’s social and emotional growth and development. 

What Drives Teenage Behavior?

There is no universal answer that succinctly explains what motivates teenage behaviors. Since the early 1900s, behaviorists (psychologists who study behavior) have researched what drives observable behaviors. Research findings have indicated that most behaviors are driven by motivation, of which there are two types:

  • Intrinsic motivation: is defined as “the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.”
  • Extrinsic motivation: is defined as a “motivation to participate in an activity based on meeting an external goal, garnering praise and approval, winning a competition, or receiving an award or payment.”

The behaviors of teens are also driven by their physical, biological, and emotional needs. Teenagers also inherently react to external stimuli from an emotional standpoint. This can be attributed to the fact that a teenager’s brain does not begin to reach its full development until the age of twenty-five. The prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, executive planning and impulse control) is the last to fully develop. This means that teenagers innately process, problem solve and make decisions using their amygdala (the area of the brain that is most closely associated with impulsivity, aggression, emotion, and instinctive behavior). Hence, brain development likely plays a role in teenage behaviors.  

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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