While there are a variety of ways that teens experience identity formation, some experiences can become very harmful to the individual. In the sections below, we discuss the causes and more serious issues in teenage identity issues & development and how parents can help.
Common Causes Contributing to Unhealthy Teen Identity Development
The importance of identity development for teens is huge. When a teen is developing their identity they are learning what makes them unique while also feeling the need to fit in. For teens who feel excluded from others due to their cultural, ethnic, gender, or sexual identity, this process can lead teens to begin participating in harmful behavior.
Other factors that prevent the formation of a secure and positive self-identity include:
- Lack of attachment to parents
- Low self-esteem
- Absence or negative influence of adults
- Lack of acceptance in a positive peer group
Common Problems and Behaviors Surrounding Unhealthy Teenage Identity Issues
The causes above make a teen more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drugs, substance addiction, and promiscuity. These teens are also more likely to perform poorly in school, have low self-esteem, and to act compulsively. This is due to the fact that during this time teens are still developing cognitively which makes their thinking process more impulsive than adults. Therefore, the simple encouragement from peers can be enough to persuade a teen to engage in risky behavior without much thought. The result of a teen’s participation in rebellious or promiscuous behavior can result in the teen feeling even worse about themselves and can create a downward spiral of unhealthy patterns and behavior.
15 Warning Signs of Teenage Identity Issues:
- A distorted or unrealistic perception of oneself
- Lack of congruent behaviors and values in different settings
- Self-worth relies on the opinions of others
- Poor academic performance or failure.
- Promiscuous behavior
- Low self-esteem
- Putting down others (i.e., teasing, name-calling, or gossiping)
- Dramatic or out of context behaviors
- Glances around to monitor others
- Putting self down
- Keeps his or her own views or opinions to self
- Intense emotions of anger or sadness
- Change in peers and/or avoids positive friendships
- Disregarding rules and limits
- Use of illegal substances
If your teen displays several of the above behaviors, they are likely struggling to form their identity. The next step parents can take to encourage healthier patterns is to ensure their teen is getting the support he or she needs at home.
- Conceiving or Misconceiving the Self: Issues in Adolescent Self-Esteem
- Identity and the Life Cycle by Erik Erickson
- Identity Development: Adolescence Through Adulthood
About Aspiro Adventure
Aspiro Adventure’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program was uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right. Aspiro Adventure focuses on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through difficulties that occur when various behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.