Adolescence is a time of growth and development. It is a transitional stage between the dependency of childhood and independency of adulthood. Thus, it is not surprising that adolescence is noted to be a juncture of high distress. Risk factors and causes of stress in adolescence must be determined first and foremost, so that appropriate coping strategies can be developed to deal with this issue.
Stress is defined as conditions or events that test a person’s psychological capacity to adjust or respond to these circumstances (Garcia, 2009). The conditions, in which a person determines as stressful, vary depending on the individual. Adolescent’s experience of stress can be perceived as intolerable, due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of how to appropriately deal with their distress (George & van der Berg 2011). Byrne and Mazanov (2002) established seven areas that predispose adolescents to increased stress levels. These include school, family relationships, future prospects and peer interactions (Byrne & Mazanov 2002).
Negative family interactions have been found to be the most compelling stressors for adolescents (McNamara 2000, pg 39). Unstable family structure, parental disagreements and inadequate child care can have a detrimental effect on an adolescents well being (Menaghan 2010). As adolescents are still developing physically and mentally, the requirement of a constant and secure home life is especially beneficial to their growth into adulthood. Most family related stressors can be classified as trivial or minor disagreements between an adolescent and parent (McNamara 2000 pg 40). When these discrepancies escalate into severe conflicts, the resultant adolescent is more inclined to have doubt in their self-worth, and depleted confidence in their ability to achieve, therefore losing all motivation to accomplish goals (McNamara 2000 pg 42). This in turn can predispose the adolescent to stress related conditions such as depression and self destruction (George & van der Berg 2011).
Peer relationships can be the most influential aspect on an adolescent’s decision making process (McNamara 2000, pg 41). The need to fit in and feel validated by their peers can cause great distress, which can have a colossal effect on choices an adolescent makes. Peer pressure, bullying and fear of rejection are a few of the many social issues, youths face on a daily basis through school and social activities, such as youth groups and sporting events. The resources that they have access to, can either enhance their well being or cause an adolescent a great deal stress.
Preconditions, such as negative family/home situations and genetic predisposition to mental illness, can increase development of problem behaviour in teens (McNamara 2000, pg 54). Poor self perception and lack of self esteem can make it difficult for an adolescent to build rapport with other peers, leading to anti-social and self-harm tendencies. Although peer interactions can manipulate an adolescent’s way of thinking or choices they make, lack of peer relationships can lead to depressive or aggressive attitudes (George & van der Berg 2011).
The burdens of school attainment includes future uncertainty with career and further education prospects, and current stressors such as the need to achieve good grades to accomplish these goals, and exam pressures (George & van der Berg 2011). Added parental pressure to achieve high marks can also cause negative performance anxieties, due to the adolescents’ uncontrollable desire to please their parents’ scholastic achievement dreams of them. Competition between peers to achieve good grades for acceptance into reputable tertiary intuitions, can furthermore add to the distress caused on teenagers through education and peer rivalry (McNamara 2000). Constructive and supportive learning environments can be beneficial to an adolescent’s growth and development. This can support an overall higher achievement rate and feeling of satisfaction in student, teacher and parent (McNamara 2000).
Research into adolescent stress has increased considerably over the past twenty years. With the ever advancing development of new technologies, Byrne and Mazanov (2002) concluded that their study into psychosocial factors that increase stress in adolescents must be modified and adjusted to suit the specific era. For example, twenty years ago issues with cyber bullying were nonexistent. With this knowledge it is important to be aware of any new possible causes of stress in adolescents, and adapt the stress measuring apparatuses and questionnaires as required.
Outlining the specific areas that youths find the most distressing, can assist adolescent professionals and parents alike to be able to recognise and treat the symptoms of stress before it gets out of control. It is important to acknowledge that stress and the ability to be able to adapt to different situations is not always a negative experience. From examining numerous case studies and experimental questionnaires on adolescent stress, I have been able to determine that there are three main significant areas that all adolescents find cause anguish in their lives. These factors are schooling, friendships and parent/child relationships. If these areas are controlled in a compassionate and understanding environment, there is greater chance of those adolescents developing appropriate coping strategies that they can continue to use into adulthood.