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Anger & Aggressive Behavior in Teens

author image Cheryl Schafer
Cheryl Schafer started freelance writing in 2010. She is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in work with children, adults and families. Schafer has worked in the mental health field since 2003. She holds her Masters of social work. Schafer graduated from New York University in 2003.
Anger & Aggressive Behavior in Teens
Angry teen staring at her mother. Photo Credit: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The teenage years are difficult to get through. Physical and emotional changes occur at a rapid pace, and the need for acceptance gains importance in a teenager's life. Hormones take over, emotions run high and every teen has to learn how to cope with the new changes. They are also learning to get along with others and discovering their own self-awareness. Learning to adapt to these changes can create anger and sometimes even aggression in some teenagers. Understanding the causes of anger and aggression may help parents, teachers and even teens themselves alleviate these symptoms.

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Physical changes can result in anger and confusion as hormone levels begin to change in boys and girls. Skin, hair and body changes are sometimes difficult for teens to accept, thus giving them a sense of uncertainty about what is happening to them as they become young adults. Peer pressure is a struggle that many teenagers face. Not feeling wanted or accepted in a group can very hurtful, and teens may exhibit these feelings as anger or aggression. Homework overload and extracurricular demands are also areas in which teens tend to feel overwhelmed, causing frustration and anger.

Increased Risk Factors

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, some of these factors include, being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse, exposure to violence in the home and/or community, genetic (family heredity) factors, exposure to violence in media, combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family) or brain damage from head injury.


Physical and emotional aspects factor into feelings of anger or aggression in teenagers. According to, "It's no surprise that our teens might become overloaded with stress. Teenagers have poor coping skills, and getting angry is the only way they know how to avoid feeling sad, hurt, or afraid." Teens act out when they feel rejected, and sometimes feelings of anger can turn into aggression. Girls tend to act on this anger by verbally expressing themselves, while boys tend to express themselves physically. Rebellion for teenagers is common, and vulnerable teenagers may start to break rules. They go against their parents’ and teachers’ wishes, engaging in behaviors they know are wrong. These acts include sneaking out of the house, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and, in some cases, experimenting with drugs.


Parents must be aware of signs to look for in an angry and aggressive teenager. It's common for teens to fight with their parents, friends and siblings, but certain signs and symptoms are indicative of a bigger problem. When a teen appears isolated, spends a lot of time in his room or does not want to participate in his typical activities, parents may have a reason for concern. A drop in grades, lack of appetite, sleeplessness or too much sleep is also a sign that a teen is troubled. Crying often or constantly finding a reason to argue is also a common trait in an angry teen. When a teen feels very angry or out of control, aggression can take over. Physical contact, such as hitting or kicking toward a parent, sibling or peer, is a clear indication that the teen needs help.


Working with angry and/or aggressive teenagers is important. Trying to figure out what is causing their anger or why they are upset helps alleviate some of their struggles. Seeking help from a school counselor or outside therapist is sometimes beneficial. Parental and teacher awareness is also important. It's crucial to understand the common causes and risk factors and to also pay attention to teens’ behaviors to assess which teens may need guidance. "Irritability and explosiveness in teens are sometimes symptoms of depression. If your teen’s mood seems unreasonable given his or her situation, it is important to have a professional screen for depression,” recommends Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D, at Lastly, being available, listening and offering support are all huge components of helping teenagers feel cared for, even if they have a hard time seeking the help that they need.

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