Problems in Adolescence

A Teacher's Guide to Common Problems Facing Today's Youth

Adolescent Alienation

All types of students can experience alienation including youth of all races, sexual orientation, and minority groups. Adolescent alienation often stems from feelings disconnected to ones family, friends, or even their school life. Teens may feel alienated from their family due to poor relationships with parents, sexual abuse in the home, or neglect in a dysfunctional home. Students who do not establish strong bonds with peers and teachers can feel alienated from their educational experience.

How can we help?

Teachers can help combat this issue of adolescent alienation by creating nurturing and positive classroom enironments that embrace, rather than frown upon, diversity. Most importantly, teachers should simply try to create positive relationships with students and connect with them and encourage parents to do the same.

Drug and Alcohol Effects

There are a seemingly endless number of negative effects that come as consequences for those adolescents that abuse drugs and alcohol. Many teens who use drugs face emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, mood swings, or even suicidal thoughts. To make matters worse, drugs have been known to increase the severity of such emotional disorders. So, while many teens will turn to drugs as a way to cope with their emotional problems doing so will only make matters worse. Adolescents who engage in drug activity are likely to experience behavioral problems such as social issues, depression, or violence. Teens who abuse drugs and alcohol are also more likely to be involved in physical fights, steal, or become involved in other delinquent behavior. Drug abuse also has negative effects on short and long-term memory; those who abuse drugs may have problems learning and achieving in school. Such memory issues can also negatively impact the child later on in life. In addition, teens that engage in drug activity are five times more likely to be sexually active and are more likely to have unprotected sex or sex with strangers, all of which can lead to teen pregnancy or the contraction of STDs. Adolescents that abuse addictive drugs are also putting themselves at risk of contracting other diseases, such as those like HIV and AIDS spread through the use of unclean needles. It has also been shown that teens who abuse drugs have a higher chance of being involved in injuries from car accidents or even death as a result. Abusing drugs and alcohol also has serious negative effects on the brain. Teen drug abusers cause damage to the brain and nervous system that can cause the brain to shrink, a decreased ability to learn, memory problems, impaired reasoning and perception, and decreased socialization.

Sexual Behaviors

During the teen years, many adolescents begin to experiment sexually, which can lead to teen pregnancy, STIs, and abortions. Sexual activity increases greatly during the teen years and at a fast rate. While only 6% of American 15-year-olds have had sex, one-third of 16-year-olds have had sex, and nearly half of 17-year-olds have as well. Adolescents also experiment in sexual activities, including oral or anal sex, with partners of the same sex. Fortunately, many more males and females today are using contraceptives with over three quarters of males and females reporting having used contraceptives their first time having sex and even more males and females having reported using contraceptives during their last sexual experience. However, despite such protections adolescents experience 9.1 million cases of STIs each year. Further, approximately 750,000 women in the US between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year. Sexual Education programs can help adolescents understand the effects of engaging in sexual activity.

Adolescent Stress

The teen years are a time of change in ones life that often results in adolescents experiencing varying degrees of stress. Stress can be caused by a number of factors including family problems, physical changes, trying to meet high expectations or overachieving, or moving to a new school. Friends can also create stress through peer pressure, trying to gain acceptance, being rejected by certain friends, or lacking friends in general. Students can also experience stress if they are having troubles in school due to learning difficulties or trying to perform well on tests or receive good grades. Stress can cause adolescents to become physically sick with headaches or stomachaches and can also cause eating disorders. Such anxiety can also cause a decrease in concentration, lower grades, and forgetfulness. Further, teens who are stressed out may experience anger, become violent, or experience sadness. Encouraging teens to take time to relax or practice relaxation techniques can help teens cope with stress. Giving teens someone to talk to about their stress as well as practicing good exercise and health routines can also help such teens. Some teens may need to turn to a professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, to help him or her cope with severe stress.

Local Resources in Champaign, IL

Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Provides teens with the opportunity to create a close relationship with positive role models in their community
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C-U Area Project
  • Non-profit organization that provides support for at-risk youth and their families by addressing problems that face teens today

Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club
  • Provides a safe environment for teens to learn skills pertinent to leadership, their education or career, health, sports and fitness


Dolgin, K. (2011). The adolescent: development, relationships, and culture.. (13 ed.). Pearson Education.

Facts on American teens' sexual and reproductive health. (2013, June). Retrieved from

Teen stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The affects of drug abuse on teens. (2009, Dec 13). Retrieved from

Reilly, Thomas. "Relating to at risk youth." Illinois State Board of Education. PowerPoint. 2010. 30 June 2013. <>.