The Eight Most Common Problems in Adolescence

If you have adolescent children, it's likely that, at some point, they'll face certain common problems that tend to appear at this stage of life. Knowing what they might be will help you to assist them in a timely manner.
The Eight Most Common Problems in Adolescence
Ebiezer López

Written and verified by the psychologist Ebiezer López.

Last update: 23 March, 2023

Adolescence is a stage in which countless physical and psychological changes occur. In fact, these young people often find it difficult to cope with this period, as there can be different conflicts within their family or social environments. One of the keys to addressing these situations is knowing how to identify them. We’re going to explain the eight most common problems in adolescence.

While these events often occur at this age, it doesn’t mean that all adolescents experience them. Indeed, each one has their own personal history that influences their reaction to those situations and the way they handle them.

The most common problems in adolescence

Many of us find it difficult to face sudden changes that occur in our lives. For example, losing our jobs can make us feel confused. For adolescents, as their bodies begin to change, so do their perspectives on many things.

Having first-hand experience with adolescents can make us aware of how overwhelming this stage can be. Indeed, it’s completely natural that it’s a stage in which different conflicts arise.

If you have a teen, you may not know how to deal with these changes. However, it’s important that you’re aware that there’s no manual that works in all circumstances. We simply recommend that you try to get through these tricky moments by showing your teens love and patience.

It’s essential that you know how to recognize the most common problems in adolescence.

1. Anxiety about being socially accepted

When adolescence arrives, the importance of their social relationships is multiplied. Indeed, one of the main concerns of young people is to be accepted. It’s this sensation that builds, in many cases, the consciousness of value. The absence of this sensation feeds a lack of value. Therefore, not being accepted by others can affect them on all levels.

One study evaluated the relationship between peer pressure and adolescent academic performance. They found that young people are often expected to react positively to peer pressure to avoid its negative effects. This means they either approach it with an optimistic perspective or, alternatively, pressure damages their academic performance (Moldes et al., 2019).

2. Self-esteem problems

Low self-esteem is an adolescent conflict and can also bring other complications. In effect, young people often don’t feel comfortable with their bodily changes and they tend to perceive rejection in social settings. Consequently, they experience emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and stress.

Following along the same lines, evidence suggests that gender is a significant factor in adolescent self-esteem. In fact, one investigation (Minev et al., 2018) found that girls exhibit more negative attitudes toward themselves than boys. One possible explanation is that women tend to experience more pressure to look attractive and behave in certain ways.

3. Eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are disorders that usually occur in adolescence. Body changes, low self-esteem, social pressure, and other factors generate distortions in body image. Therefore, eating disorders are one of the repetitive problems in adolescence, especially in women.

However, a study conducted by Limbers, Cohen, and Gray (2018) indicated that eating disorders also significantly affect men. This study reported that, in the United States, 5.5 percent of the male population reported a high risk of suffering from eating disorders. On the other hand, in Canada, a prevalence of 1.1 percent was found among adolescents. In turn, in a sample of young Dutch men, they found a predominance of 1.2 percent.

In the case of girls, the pressure tends to be toward looking thin and meeting certain beauty standards. On the other hand, boys are more inclined to want to look muscular and athletic. That said, in both cases, eating disorders put their physical and psychological integrity at risk.

Young victim of eating disorder eats a piece of apple
Both bulimia and anorexia stand out among the conflicts of adolescence. Timely care is essential to avoid serious consequences.

4. Sexuality

Adolescence is the stage of the awakening of sexuality. It can also lead to certain difficulties. For instance, some families treat sex as a taboo subject. Therefore, adolescents aren’t given enough information about it. They may also not feel comfortable discussing these issues with parents or other family members.

A lack of sexual education can expose young people to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Also, sexuality is a common problem at this stage because adolescents are just beginning to discover themselves. Moreover, those who identify as gay or bisexual may encounter rejection from their environment.

5. Risk behaviors

One interesting aspect of the brain is that it takes considerable time to fully develop. In fact, the prefrontal cortex doesn’t completely develop until between the ages of 25 and 30. In the brain, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for reasoning, decision-making, and other executive functions.

For this reason, in childhood and adolescence, emotions usually dominate their behavior. Therefore, young people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug use or dangerous activities.

6. Conflicts with parents

Sometimes, parents or the rest of the family can’t handle the changes their teens are going through too well. This often means that conflicts between parents and children can become frequent at home and affect their relationships.

While it’s important for you, as a parent to set boundaries to protect your children, these should be flexible. Ideally, you should make agreements that satisfy both of you. For example, if your teen wants to go out with their friends at the weekend, it’s okay to allow it, but only until a certain time. In this way, they have fun but return home at a reasonable time.

7. Psychological disorders

The changes in the different planes associated with adolescence can be constituted as risk factors in relation to mental health. At this stage of life, it’s usual for the first signs of psychological disorders to begin to appear. For this reason, it’s essential that parents are aware of abrupt and abnormal changes in their children’s behavior.

8. Bullying

Bullying is a problem in today’s world. Moreover, in the era of the internet and social media, this situation also arises in virtual spaces. In fact, in the latter scenario, it tends to be worse, due to the anonymity offered by the network. Teens can be both bullies and victims. In both cases, it’s necessary to act.

Harassing other people can be a sign of emotional conflict that needs to be dealt with professionally. On the other hand, we know that being a victim of bullying has negative consequences on both mental and physical health.

Teenager in conflict with his father
It’s possible that changes in adolescence lead to constant disagreements between parents and children.

Problems in adolescence aren’t always the same

Finally, as a parent, you should keep in mind that the most common problems in adolescence aren’t the same for everyone. Therefore, you should avoid comparisons with other children of their age or even with your own experience in your youth.

The best you can do is provide a safe space for teens to express their concerns and find solutions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Limbers, C. A., Cohen, L. A., & Gray, B. A. (2018). Eating disorders in adolescent and young adult males: prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment strategies. Adolescent health, medicine and therapeutics, 9, 111–116.
  • Minev, M., Petrova, B., Mineva, K., Petkova, M., & Strebkova, S. (2018). Self-esteem in adolescents. Trakia Journal of Sciences, (2), pp 114-118, 2018.,%20Vol.16,%202018/M.Minev.pdf
  • Moldes, V., Biton, Ch., Gonzaga, D & Moneva, J. (2019). Students, Peer Pressure and their Academic Performance in School. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications (IJSRP). 9. p8541. 10.29322/IJSRP.9.01.2019.p8541.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.