Stemming from insecurity, clinginess often occurs in teenagers with self-esteem issues. Acting as if they have a need for the constant companionship of family and friends, clingy teens will commonly show a lack of personal interests and exhibit smothering or jealous behavior. Because needy behavior can place strain on their relationships, parents must be vigilante for signs of clinginess in their teens.
Personal Plans and Interests
Clingy teens often don't have any interests of their own, such as sports or hobbies, which do not involve a friend or family member. They may wait around all day, or weekend, for a friend or love interest to call, being unable or unwilling to make plans of their own. Clingy teenagers often have only one close friend and adopt the interests of that friend, until the friendship ends, and then the teen will find a new friend, adopting the interests of the new pal. For example, a teenage girl may suddenly become interested in yoga just because her best friend takes classes, then if she meets a new buddy who plays basketball she will begin going to all the games, even if she had no previous interest in the sport. Conversely, normal teens have their own interests that remain constant over time and through multiple friendships, actually gravitating to people who share their interests. As Maria R.T. de Guzman, Adolescent Specialist at the University of Nebraska, points out, unlike early childhood when children have only one or two close friends, normal teenagers develop multiple friendships and have varied interests across diverse groups.
Teens with clingy behavior have difficulty spending time by themselves. They need a friend or family member to do even the most mundane activities with, like riding to school or going to the library, mall or supermarket. A well-adjusted teen doesn't mind spending time by himself and will actively seek out alone time as he works to discover his own identity. Author and child psychologist, Peter Marshall, Ph.D., notes that solitude is important for teenagers because they have a need to think about things like school, relationships and life, to figure out who they are and who they want to become.
Smothering friends and family members is a telltale sign of clingy behavior in teens. Obsessing about calling or texting her friends or boyfriend constantly because she hasn’t heard back from them is an indication that your teen may have serious insecurity issues. Always needing to know where her parents are, or needing to be in on every family conversation or decision, may also signal needy behavior. Teens who are secure in themselves and their relationships give others a break and need a break from others as well, at least occasionally.
While a little jealousy is normal, such as when his girlfriend goes out on Friday night with her gal pals instead of with him, excessive or irrational jealousy is a sure symptom of insecurity. Unhealthy jealousy, such as your teen becoming overly upset because his best friend went away for the weekend with his father on a camping trip, leaving your teen with nothing to do that weekend, is a red flag that your teen may be exhibiting clingy behavior. According to Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D., professor at the University of Pennsylvania, when a teen becomes overly dependent on one person it can make his life miserable if he doesn’t feel he is getting the same attention from the friend in return.
- The Self-Esteem Institute: Behavioral Symptoms & Consequences: Being Needy
- Health Guidance: Signs of an Insecure Boyfriend
- Psych Central: Overly Dependent on Boyfriend
- Huffington Post: Teens, Dating and Obsessive Behavior: A Dangerous Combination
- Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years; David Pruitt and AACAP