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Teenagers: Why Do They Rebel?

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Going Social continued...

Body piercing, tattoos, and music are today's "markers" of adolescence. "No self-respecting 15-year-old is going to listen to Britney Spears," he says.

Another dynamic: first love, first sex, first drugs, first drinking. In earlier generations, kids weren't expected to be sexually active -- or experiment with alcohol or drugs -- until they turned 17 or 18, when they were better able to resist peer pressure, says Elkind. "Now they're getting pressure at 13 and 14, when they're too young to resist. It's not that child development has changed, it's that the demands are coming at earlier ages."

The Truth About Statistics

Yet it is a myth that all teenagers are big risk-takers, says Bobrow at New York University.

  • Over half of teenagers will experiment with alcohol, which means nearly half will not.
  • Roughly 40% of teenagers will try drugs at least once, which means 60% will not.
  • Even fewer teens regularly use illegal substances -- less than 25% of those who try them -- which means the majority do not.

"Parents are concerned that kids who try drugs use them on a regular basis, but that isn't always the case," she tells WebMD.

Indeed, there's evidence of a decline in teenage sexual experimentation, says Elkind. The pregnancy rate has gone down. "I'm not sure if it's threat of AIDS or sex education. At any rate, those signs are good," he says. "Also, laws in many states require parental consent laws for an abortion. That may have contributed."

Also, teen crime statistics have stabilized, although they have taken a different twist. "We're finding that girls are involved in the same crimes as boys are, like armed robbery," says Elkind. "Girls are involved in carjacking, car stealing, which used to be exclusively boy crimes."

Unfortunately, Elkind adds, the rates of sexually transmitted disease have not declined among teenagers.

Of course, the fact that all teenagers aren't as wild as some people imagine doesn't necessarily help create peace in your home. Even the most balanced teenagers are arguing and challenging their parents, sometimes on a daily basis.

So what can you, the parent, do to keep your relationship strong during these turbulent years?

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