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What Is Normal Behavior For A Teenager?


group of teenagers

Teenagers are notoriously known as moody, boundary testing, impulsively acting, confused individuals. Navigating the years of adolescence can often feel as complicated for a parent of a teen as it does for the adolescent. Understanding normal behaviors that a typically developing young person may exhibit throughout his or her adolescence is helpful to bear in mind as you witness your child mature through his or her teenage years. As a parent you should expect to see your teenage experience a wide range of emotions, some of which will be expressed in an age appropriate fashion, while others may be expressed immaturely. Young people are forced to rely on outdated coping mechanisms until they learn new methods, which are what much of the teenage years, are all about. 

The Teenage Brain

Teenagers innately operate from an emotional standpoint. This is primarily due to the fact that they area of the brain (known as the pre-frontal cortex) that primarily reigns rational thought, executive planning and impulse control is not yet fully developed. Hence, teenagers are forced to react to external stimuli using the amygdala to make decisions and problem solve. The amygdala is the area of the brain that is directly associated with impulses, emotions, aggression and instinctive behavior. Hence, the seemingly erratic, impulsive and emotionally charged reactions and behaviors exhibited by teenagers during adolescence is par for the course.

Teenage Behaviors

Each young person will mature through adolescence at his or her own pace, develop a unique set of coping mechanisms for navigating the onslaught of teenage emotions, and handle the trials and tribulations of adolescence differently. There are a variety of commonly exhibited behaviors that are considered normal for teenagers, which can include any combination of the following: 

  • Sleep irregularities: the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) shifts throughout adolescence, which can lead to a variety of sleep disturbances (e.g. difficulty falling asleep, difficulty remaining asleep throughout the night, difficulty waking up in the morning, etc.).
  • Shift in academic performance: teenagers may lose academic motivation, which could lead a decline in a young person’s academic performance. Conversely some teenagers could become highly focused on their academic performance, which result in academic excellence (sometimes at the expense of other areas of their lives). 
  • Rebellion and/ or defiance: occasional teenage defiance and rebellion (e.g. pushing back against household rules, acting outside the norm, etc.) is normal and healthy.
  • Withholding information and/ or lying: during adolescence most teenagers seek autonomy and privacy from their parents, which can lead to secretive behavior (e.g. lying, withholding information, etc.) concerning various aspects of their lives. 
  • Drug and alcohol experimentation: although this can become dangerous, it is highly common for teenagers to experiment with drugs and/ or alcohol during adolescence. 
  • Irritability and mood swings: teenagers have to work through new thoughts, emotions, and feelings, which can be frustrating and manifest as irritability.

It is highly common for teenagers to shift the source of emotional support from parents to peers during adolescence. Although your child may no longer talk about his or her experiences and/ or emotions as much as they did before entering the teenage years, it is important to bear in mind that they are enduring an enormous amount of internal and external pressures. Simply because they do not express these challenges does not mean they are not experiencing them. If there is any concern that your child may be exhibiting atypical behaviors it may be helpful to obtain the guidance of a professional mental healthcare provider. 

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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