Personality Characteristics in Teenagers

Man with tattoo
Teens often engage in behaviors with long-term consequences. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Just as personalities vary from one adult to another, personalities in teens vary. But teens do share some personality characteristics because they share a common biological state that releases large amounts of life-changing hormones. Parents of teens should expect and prepare to accommodate these common teen personality characteristics.

Independent

When your teen was younger, getting along with him was probably easier. The teen years make life hard on parents because of a teen’s need to become independent. This desire for independence is an evolutionary one -- teens are maturing and preparing themselves to enter the adult world. They understand they cannot rely on their parents forever. The result is a teen who is more autonomous and emphasizes his own ability to make decisions and his right to privacy. In this respect, parents will usually find their teen’s goals diverging from their own.

Risk-seeking

Although the amount of risk-seeking varies in teens, few demographic groups exceed teens in terms of risk-seeking activities. The reason for this lies in the teen brain. Dr. Paul Martiquet, medical health officer and author of the article “The Teenage Brain,” notes that the brain of a teenager is not fully developed, especially in the frontal lobes. Because the frontal lobes of a brain are the primary source of decision-making and consequence-evaluation, teens tend to be weak in understanding the connection between their actions and the possible negative outcomes. Thus, even risk-averse teens will occasionally act in ways that seem foolish in their parents’ eyes. For example, while young, a tattoo might seem cool, but teens often neglect the fact that a tattoo lasts a lifetime.

Extraverted

Even introverted children become more extraverted in their teen years. While this does not mean an introverted teen becomes a socialite, it does mean she will begin to focus on making friends and gaining a social standing in her peer group. The teenage years are a training period for adulthood, a time in which relationships are crucial in getting along in the world. Parents should expect children entering their teens to want to spend more time with their friends than with their families. Even at home, teens might feel compelled to get on the computer to use social media platforms rather than talk with mom and dad.

Romantic

Perhaps “romantic” is not the best word to describe inexperienced teenagers, but they are often prone to describe themselves this way. Romantic or not, one new aspect of the teenage years is the flood of hormones flowing through teens that pushes them to engage in romantic encounters. For some teens this results in harmless flirting, but for others it results in early sex, which has its own consequences. Nevertheless, parents cannot control a child’s biology and thus must use education as a way of helping their teens avoid or protect themselves from the risks that their hormones push them to seek out.

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