External Stressors in Adolescence

External Stressors in Adolescence

Stress is an inevitable phenomenon in every person’s life. At different points in time, human beings encounter situations that may generate stress. Adolescents, for instance, are prone to stress that may be occasioned by school demands, body changes, problems with peers, negative thoughts about themselves, and family issues among others (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019). While most of these stressors affect individuals across all age groups, there are some that are unique to adolescents. For example, as compared to other age groups, adolescents tend to attach greater value to social relationships. Smith (2018) observes that it is typical of adolescents to spend much of their time with peers. Finding and maintaining the right friends has been identified as a potential source of stress for teens. In the event that teens experience bullying together with relational aggression, stress is likely to set in.  The high value that teens place on social lives explains why the adolescent stage is usually characterized by a lot of peer pressure.

Secondly, adolescents are uniquely affected by school frustrations or demands. In the words of Smith (2018, para.7), “many teens worry about meeting academic demands, pleasing teachers and parents, and keeping up with their classmates”. Although learners in their childhood are also subjected to academic demands, it may be said that such demands have a greater impact on adolescents because typically, adolescents are in high school. They are, therefore, expected to work hard, achieve good grades and make good decisions that will help them to join good colleges and shape their career lives.

Social stress, which is closely related to peer pressure, is a major trigger of risky behaviors among adolescents. According to Reynolds et al. (2014), friendship with the wrong people is one of the factors that cause adolescents to engage in substance use as well as unhealthy sexual behaviors. Stated more precisely, unhealthy social relationships and peer pressure are very likely to lead an adolescent to adopt or develop unhealthy behaviors such as consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Similarly, teens who lack guidance on how to deal with peer pressure may engage in dangerous sexual activities. In the same way, students who feel overwhelmed by school demands may turn to substance use as a strategy of easing off the stress.

To help adolescents successfully navigate the adolescent stage without developing the risky behaviors outlined above, parents and teachers have an important role to play. In regard to peer pressure and social stress, it is imperative that parents develop a special friendship with the adolescent children. Parents should encourage and facilitate their children to open up regarding their frustrations and worries. Likewise, teachers should organize guidance and counseling sessions at school where students will be given tips on how to handle social pressures.

To deal with school demands and academic frustrations, simple strategies such as group discussions can help. Through these discussions, students will better understand concepts that re otherwise difficult for them to grasp on their own. As a result, students will obtain better grades. Apart from this, if the frustrations are caused by confusion regarding which college to join or course to pursue, career guidance would be necessary to alleviate such frustrations. In short, adolescents need ongoing counseling and guidance as they go through this very crucial phase of their lives so that they can make sound decisions.


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2019). Stress management and teens. www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx

Reynolds, E. K., MacPherson, L., Schwartz, S., Fox, N. A., & Lejuez, C. (2014). Analogue study of peer influence on risk-taking behavior in older adolescents. Prevention science: the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research15(6), 842–849.

Smith, K. (2018). 6 common triggers of teen stress. www.psycom.net/common-triggers-teen-stress/

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