The new faces of adolescent distress

Adolescent distress should not simply be traced back to exaggerated individual and existential problems, but other socioeconomic factors must be considered that determine risky behaviors and exacerbate borderline conditions. Here we can summarize.

Socio-environmental factors: conditions of social marginality are often determined by variables: – economic: economic precariousness, unemployment, suburban housing conditions, crumbling spaces, bare meeting places determine a socio-family context full of anxiety and concern with frequent aggressive dynamics;

– cultural: the accentuation of cultural diversity causes marginalization and produces frustration and violent reactions. – social: In a complex society the terms of reference change quickly: doing seems to predominate over thinking, having over being, personal gratification over the quality of relationships. The processes of socialization and identification become more difficult. Psychological and relational factors. The transition from childhood to adulthood always expresses psychic suffering as a result of a struggle between the desire to go on and to remain a child. Educational-affective factors: adolescents’ loneliness is also triggered by the loosening of educational relationships, both due to the difficulty of relating to them and the frequent generational conflict.

Developmental discomfort appears more constitutive than from a pathology but from an adolescent maladjustment, escapes from home, suicides, sexual disorders, drug addiction, violence, crime. Maladjustment is a widespread malaise and a momentary inability to overcome the developmental tasks inherent in age. There are four recurring causes: – a limited attention in the family to the boy’s personality; – a scarce habit on the part of parents to share the choices of their children, whether they are small or large; – a failure to assign family responsibility tasks to children; – the lack of a motivating dialogue on the part of adults: – Adolescent maladjustment, finding it difficult to respect social norms and assume responsibilities, can have serious consequences. Hooliganism affects 10% of teens who are tempted to engage in hooliganism. The desire for wrongdoing increases alarmingly when there is no satisfying relationship between parents and children. Overprotection and authoritarianism, low participation are the fertile ground for transgressive and rash gestures. The theft is an unusual but frequent behavior, the theft takes on different meanings depending on the reasons that push children to steal. Children have a marked propensity to challenge the adult world and its rules. For theft, the challenge is not addressed only to adults, but also to themselves, in the sense that the delinquent act is a sort of verification of one’s transgressive abilities. Violence: the increase in aggressive demonstrations can be caused by the considerable influence of the mass media. In the most fragile subjects, violence becomes the way to redeem one’s weakness or uneasy situation. Violence is a use of body language to express one’s social malaise and unload one’s existential difficulties onto others. The suicide attempt: the gesture is aimed at asking for help in a difficult situation, at drawing the attention of adults to a problem, at asking for relational changes. The recipients are often the parents. The gesture has a strong relational meaning, but at the same time full of aggression and blame. Depression: It can lead to mental states of loneliness and despair which can also lead to serious consequences. In a precarious state of equilibrium, an objectively irrelevant event can trigger a serious crisis of despair in the boy / girl. A solid basic trust can make the adolescent overcome serious existential crises (bereavement, disappointments, etc.). Bad language: it is an anaffective (without affection) way of experiencing sexuality, also experienced as a motive for seeking one’s own sexual identity. Used with peers it is simply a slang form, with parents or adults it manifests signs of discomfort and suffering. Anorexia and bulimia are eating disorders manifesting discomfort especially in the female sex. Stubborn refusal of food, severe weight loss and the disappearance of menstruation characterize anorexia. The ingestion of large quantities of food, in an impulsive, voracious and disordered way characterizes bulimia. At the base of these behaviors there are unresolved emotional and existential problems, which create loneliness and suffering, up to the exaggerated search for attention, with behaviors that are often antithetical to what one wants. What educational strategies?


In the past, the educational attitude was based on a sense of duty and often from the beginning the sense of guilt matured in non-fulfilling children. Punishments become the corrective response of adults to change wrong behaviors.


“Social morality” is formed not so much on the sense of duty, but rather on the “expectations” on the part of parents towards their children. Punishments are no longer a useful corrective for those who do not feel guilty. The effective deterrent against wrongdoing could be making people feel “shame” in front of themselves and others. This position is dangerous as it very easily triggers the “revenge of the children” that sooner or later comes out. More laborious and productive is focusing on the quality of relationships


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5. Godino A .: Research on the “mid-life crisis” and the psychology of adulthood. Experimental Journal of Freniatria, CXI, 2, 1-70, 1990.

6. Godino A .: Research on the “mid-life crisis” and the psychology of adulthood. Experimental Journal of Freniatria, CXI, 2, 292-307, 1983

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