Teen Relationships. Common Issues that Arise in Teen Dating
Adolescence is a time in a teen’s life to experiment, learn about one’s likes and dislikes, individuate, and begin to cultivate a moral compass. It is also a time of great physiological growth and emotional turmoil. The hormones that begin to surface during puberty can cause great confusion and self-evaluation. Further, the teenage brain is not yet fully developed, and will not reach full development until age twenty-five, at the earliest. A teenager relies heavily on the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with impulses, emotions, aggression, instinctive behavior, and plays a role in sexual activity and libido) when reacting to certain stimuli whereas an adult relies on the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved in planning, self-control, and decision making) when reacting to the same stimuli. Hence, teenagers instinctively react to stimuli emotionally and often without any consideration of foresight or rational thought.
While many adults minimize teenage love and refer to it as lust, from the perspective of a teen it is experienced as an intense, all-consuming emotion. Romantic teenage relationships typically involve exploring sexual feelings, physical intimacy, and sexual attraction. Teenage relationships are integral to one’s overall development, and a major developmental milestone. It has been noted that teen relationships are linked to the way adolescents explore independence, body image, privacy, and identity.
There are a variety of issues that could arise in teen dating. Common examples include, but are not limited to the following, provided by the Child Mind Institute:
- Unrequited love
- Unwanted or coerced sexual activity
- Aggression between romantic partners
- Falling behind academically due to prioritizing a romantic relationship over education
- Becoming isolated from everyone except one’s partner, which can result in friendships and other important relationships suffering
Romantic relationships can bring many emotional ups and downs for teens. While these emotional rollercoasters may be difficult to witness as a parent, it is helpful be mindful of the fact that these shifting emotions are beneficial in the long run, as they increase a young person’s capacity to share, empathize, and develop healthy intimate relationships in the future.
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