Help for Parents of Angry and Aggressive Teens

Teens are already challenging to parent. However, when a teen is struggling with a mental illness, it can have a significant impact on the teen-parent relationship. For this reason, it’s essential that parents get the support they need in order to tend to the emotional and psychological challenges their child is going through.

If your teen is angry, he or she might have behavioral explosions, mood swings, and perhaps an inability to meet the demands of life. If this is true, part of seeking help is to develop a relationship with mental health provider in your neighborhood. If your teen is resistant to going to therapy, you and your spouse might go to therapy sessions together, with the focus being how to care for your child. With the help of a therapist or psychologist, you might come up with a plan for supporting your teen at home.

If you’re able to get your child to a therapist, a therapist can provide a diagnosis. For instance, possible diagnoses for an explosive teen may be bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, sleep disturbances, stress, or medical issues. A teen might have depression, for example, especially if he or she does not have the skills for managing unbearable sadness. As a result, they might appear angry instead. Their anger might also be a symptom of an unrecognized medical concern or a teen’s inability to manage stress. At the same time, a teen who is angry and/or aggressive might be experiencing symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Teens with ODD exhibit a bit more of a challenge. This disorder is characterized by a pattern of angry or irritable behavior, vindictiveness, and argumentativeness. To be diagnosed, an adolescent must display four symptoms from one of the following categories: angry or irritable mood, argumentative or defiant behavior, and vindictiveness. This disorder is similar to Conduct Disorder only that those with this disorder do not act aggressively towards others, do not destroy property, and do not show a pattern of theft.

In 2001, The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology published a research study that explored the quality of relationships between parents and teens. The study looked specifically at teens with ADHD and ODD, surveying 87 male teens from ages 12 to 18 with ADHD/ODD and their parents. They were compared to a community control group on certain factors of the parent-teen relationship. The study revealed that the parents and teens with ADHD/ODD had significantly more issues in their relationship. There was more anger during conflicts, more negative communication in general, and used more aggressive tactics with each other compared to those in the community control group. In another study, mothers of those teens with ADHD were shown to have greater parenting stress, marital dissatisfaction, and a psychological disorder themselves such as depression or anxiety.

It’s likely already clear that parenting teens with anger or aggression can be incredibly challenging. What can parents do to better the parent-teen relationship, improve their teen’s life, and help themselves? Some of the tips mentioned above can help. At the same time, ensuring that you as parents have the support you need can also be helpful. If your teen is willing to go to therapy, Family Therapy may be useful. This form of therapy aims to change the way family members interact, improve the functioning of the family as a unit, and improve the functioning of individuals within the family. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, when treated early with a comprehensive treatment plan, anger and aggression can be managed and a teen can eventually return to normal functioning.

Further Reading