Abnormal Teenage Anger

What is considered a normal level of anger and aggression in teenagers?

Most teenagers will experience certain levels of anger and aggression as they grow and mature.  Anger and aggression, often rooted in frustration, can be fairly common in the early adolescence, and can be confrontational as these youngsters try to establish their independence.  A great deal of the misbehavior during the teenage years is triggered by or aimed at the peer group, possibly due to peer pressure.  The underlying goal of the misbehavior is either to get their peers’ attention, to impress them or to display, however misinterpreted or misunderstood, admirable qualities such as courage, independence or nonconformity.  Because of their need to explore, question and challenge, anger with adults can be more frequent and intense than in younger kids. Younger teens often display a strong conviction that they are right and maybe even know more than the adults they engage in debate.  This type of behavior, while frustrating, is not considered abnormal.

In the normal course of development, teenagers around the age of 16, will become noticeably more mature and begin to demonstrate more restraint and self-control even when experiencing feelings of anger and aggression.  By 17 or 18, most teenagers will show a marked reduction in the tendency to express serious, outward anger and aggression (exercising greater self-control) and relate to adults on a surprising mature level.  This is not to say that 17 or 18 year olds may not exhibit irrational anger or aggression, but that for most young people such events become less frequent, less intense and more easily and quickly resolved.

Despite the above, normal levels of anger and aggression in this age range do not usually disrupt the flow of activity in the family and normal daily activities, particularly in the later adolescent years. Furthermore, while parents may get frustrated at times, there isn’t an ongoing feeling of anxiety or a sense of losing control if the behavior is within the normal range of teenage behaviors.

What levels of moderate anger and aggression are considered above the norm and should raise concerns?

There are certain levels of anger and aggression in teenagers that are outside of the norm and should raise concerns in parents and others involved with the teenager.  These behaviors include:

  • Angry outbursts including yelling, swearing and temper tantrums
  • Angry confrontations with parents, teachers and other adults
  • Drawing or writing with angry and aggressive themes
  • Spiteful and vindictive behavior with no remorse
  • Aggression including threats or intimidation
  • Throwing items and damaging or destroying property
  • Fighting
  • Bullying

While these behaviors in and of themselves may lie outside the norm and are unacceptable to most parents, there are two indicators to help parents gauge whether these behaviors are abnormal:

  • If the anger and aggression disrupts normal family activities or family functioning
  • If parents are left with feelings of anxiety, frustration, outrage and loss of control

More specifically, angry and aggressive teenage behavior should be considered worrisome if the teenager:

  • Disrupts family functioning or family activities one a week or more (frequency), and /or
  • Disrupts family functioning or family activities for more than just a few minutes (duration), and/or
  • Disrupts family functioning or family activities to such an extent as to interfere with the family’s normal day to day activities, the family’s sense of safety or the family’s enjoyment of life (intensity).

What levels of intense anger and aggression are considered warning signs of maladjusted behavior that should raise serious concerns?

  • Serious bullying and harassment
  • Threats or intimidation including extortion
  • Assault
  • Fighting (perhaps involving weapons)
  • Physical and mental cruelty to people or animals
  • Destruction of property including arson
  • Hanging out with antisocial peers
  • Gang involvement

These behaviors are considered serious and intervention is necessary when said behaviors occur in the following manner:

  • More than once each week and sometimes even daily, and/or
  • The intensity is so high that it upsets the family and disrupts the normal flow of family functioning, and/or
  • The duration is considerable, taking up a good deal of time or casting a negative tone over the entire day for the parents and other family members, and/or
  • Parents and family members live in fear for their safety and well-being.

What should a parent do if he/she believes their teenager is exhibiting abnormal anger and aggression?

If your teenager is exhibiting abnormal signs of anger and aggression you should immediately seek professional assistance.   Havenwood specializes in helping teenagers with abnormal anger and aggression.  We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.