Causes of adolescent deviant behavior

“Deviation” means “deviation.” Deviant behavior is called deviant behavior, social deviation. The prevalence among adolescents is 40-64%. High numbers of statistical data are explained by the peculiarities of a given age period: social, physiological and psychological immaturity. 

Boys and girls of 14-18 years old who are brought up in adverse social conditions, having hereditary burden of mental disorders , substance abuse , drug addiction , and alcoholism are most susceptible to behavioral deviations .

Causes of adolescent deviant behavior

The causes of deviations in adolescents can be combined into two large groups. The first is the peculiarities of the social environment:

  • Incomplete families. In the conditions of upbringing by one parent, there is a high risk of forming pathological relationships with the child, based on the requirement of unconditional submission, insufficient participation, and incomprehension. There is no sample of interactions with the opposite sex.
  • Conflict, asocial families. Tensions between parents, frequent quarrels, lack of understanding negatively affect the educational process. The prevalence of antisocial tendencies, parasitic lifestyle, alcoholism are becoming a model of action.
  • Educational mistakes. Lack of attention of teachers, inability to establish contact with a teenager becomes the basis for the formation of academic failure, conflicts with the class, teachers.

The second group of causes leading to the formation of the deviant behavior of adolescents are medical and biological factors. The physiological basis of deviations are:

  • Burdened heredity. The development of deviations contribute to reduced protective mechanisms, limited adaptive functions of the individual. These features are observed in the inheritance of mental deficiency, anomalous character traits, addiction to alcoholism, drug addiction.
  • Pathology of the central nervous system. Biological inferiority of the nerve cells of the brain develops with serious diseases in the first years of life, traumatic brain injuries . It is manifested by emotional instability, a decrease in adaptive capabilities.
  • Features of puberty. Hormonal restructuring of the body, the active maturation of the cerebral cortex, the formation of higher mental functions can be manifested by the sharpness of character traits, asocial actions.


The pathogenesis of deviant behavior in adolescents is complex. The development of deviations is based on the state of disorientation in the system of social values ​​and norms. The age crisis period is characterized by the acute need for self-determination, self-expression. The absence of a favorable social environment, a stable system of values, and the support of significant people (peers, adults) leads to the formation of pathological behavioral patterns. Often, they are based on the desire to draw attention, to prove their importance, independence, independence, strength. The actions are often illegal, anti-moral in nature.


There are several options for classifications of adolescent deviant behavior. Within the framework of the medical approach, the typology proposed by V. D. Mendelevich is widespread – a Russian psychiatrist, psychotherapist, pathopsychologist.

It is based on how to interact with reality, the nature of the violation of social norms:

  • Delinquent type It includes actions and actions that are treated as criminal: theft, robbery, violence.
  • Addictive type. The desire to escape from reality, to support intense emotions is being formed. Artificially, adolescents achieve a change in mental state: they use chemicals (alcoholism, drug addiction, substance abuse), fix attention on certain stimuli, actions (trance, masturbation).
  • Pathocharacterological type. Behavior is caused by pathological character traits formed in the process of education. This group includes character accentuations, psychopathy (hysteroid, schizoid , epileptoid, etc.).
  • Psychopathological type. Adolescent behavioral reactions are a manifestation of psychopathological syndromes and symptoms of mental illness. Example: apathy is a symptom of depression , hypomania is a manifestation of bipolar disorder .
  • Hyperpower. Giftedness, talent, genius are manifested by actions deviating from normal.
Symptoms of deviant behavior in adolescents

Teenage deviations do not have a distinct staging. The development goes from single deviating actions to regular recurring actions, organized activities, lifestyle. Progress may take several weeks, months, years.

The main clinical manifestation of adolescent deviant behavior is the difficulty of social adaptation: frequent conflicts with teachers, classmates, change of friends, and commitment to “bad companies.” Public disadaptation is manifested by leaving the house, refusal from school , absenteeism of lessons, enthusiasm for the Internet, computer games. Learning activities are hard, there is no interest in classes, progress is low. Distraction, low concentration of attention, and lack of volitional abilities are characteristic. Hobbies often change, things remain unfinished to the end.

In the emotional-personal sphere, infantilism is clearly expressed – a low level of responsibility, control over their behavior, and the organization of the household sphere of life. This is manifested by carelessness, delays, inability to make a plan of work, to act according to it. Emotional instability, frequent mood swings prevail. Depending on the type of deviation, phobias, depressions, outbursts of aggressiveness, hysteria , stubbornness, impulsive destructive actions are present . Self-esteem is often inadequate, compensated for by restrictive behavior (isolation), cruelty, and feigned indifference.

At the physiological level, deviant behavior is accompanied by disturbed sleep, appetite, daytime sleepiness, decreased immune system function, dysmenorrhea , and psychosomatic reactions. Adolescents are underweight or overweight, susceptible to infectious diseases, functional disorders (headaches, fever, blood pressure drops, digestive disorders).

It is worth noting that unusual abilities are also signs of deviation, but are rarely considered as pathological symptoms. Gifted brilliant adolescents do not cause concern from society, do not need medical care. Special conditions of development are organized by educational institutions.


In the absence of medical, psychotherapeutic and pedagogical assistance, deviant reactions of adolescents become a way of life. The most unfavorable options are organized crime, alcoholism, prostitution. Adolescents and young people from these groups are most susceptible to violent death, the incidence of socially significant infections ( tuberculosis, HIV, STDs), and death. Complications of deviations are suicides. Spontaneous death is the result of emotional instability, impulsivity, and lack of professional help.


Diagnosis of deviant behavior in adolescents is performed by a psychiatrist and a medical psychologist. The process of diagnosis is based on a number of clinical and psychological methods:

  • Observation, conversation. The psychiatrist polls the patient: ascertains the living conditions, the specifics of family relationships, habits, and hobbies. Assess the general condition, especially the emotional sphere, behavioral responses.
  • Survey of parents, relatives. The psychiatrist listens to complaints from people who have close contact with the patient. The opinion of other people is important, since criticism of one’s own state is often reduced in deviant adolescents.
  • Psychological testing . A clinical psychologist offers a teenager to answer the questions of tests, personal questionnaires. Often used Minnesota multifactorial identity questionnaire (MMPI), pathocharacterological diagnostic questionnaire (PDO), Eysenck questionnaire, scale of anxiety. The result allows to determine the dominant personality traits, character traits.
  • Projective techniques. Used by a clinical psychologist to identify repressed emotions – aggression, fear, anxiety. Presented by drawing tests, test Sondi, test Rosenzweig.

The data of special diagnostic methods are supplemented by documentation of other specialists interacting with the adolescent. When making a diagnosis, the psychiatrist takes into account the characteristics of school teachers, the district police officer, an extract from the outpatient card of a pediatrician , a children’s neurologist, and doctors of other specialties.

Treatment of deviant behavior in adolescents

Treatment of social deviations requires an integrated approach, including pharmacological, psychocorrectional, psychotherapeutic care.

A teenage psychiatrist makes a treatment plan that includes:

  • Psychotherapy . Sessions are aimed at the adolescent’s awareness of the nature of the character, training in behavioral methods of self-regulation. The analysis of conflict situations, possible actions, reactions. Psychotherapeutic meetings are recommended for parents to restore full-fledged relationships.
  • Psychocorrection. The purpose of the classes is to stabilize the emotional state, to develop the functions of attention and thinking. The result increases the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic work, self-reliance, awakens interest in learning (a prerequisite for social rehabilitation).
  • Pharmacotherapy. The use of drugs is an additional method of treatment, it is indicated for patients with a biological predisposition to deviations: those with psychotic disorders, neurological diseases. There are no specific drugs for the treatment of asocial behavior. The use of lithium, antipsychotic drugs, anticonvulsants reduces the severity of aggression. Isolated pharmacotherapy is ineffective.

In parallel with the medical, psychological help, socio-pedagogical rehabilitation is carried out. Events are organized on the basis of educational institutions by social teachers, subject teachers, and school psychologists. A promising way to treat deviant behavior is group psychotherapy. Meetings involve modeling of frequent problem situations. In the course of role-playing games, adolescents learn how to resolve conflicts, observe their own reactions and their results, learn to build productive relationships with their peers.

Prognosis and prevention

In most cases, with complex treatment, the deviant behavior of adolescents has a favorable prognosis – young people have the flexibility of adaptive mechanisms, and rehabilitation and psychotherapeutic measures give a positive result. Great efforts are required when the deviation develops on the background of a neurological and / or psychotic illness. Prevention is based on the early detection of pathological intra-family relationships, learning problems.

Deviant behavior of adolescents – a set of actions and actions that deviate from the rules adopted by society. It manifests itself by aggressiveness, sadism, theft, deceit, vagrancy, anxiety, depression, targeted isolation, suicide attempts, hypercommunity, victimization, phobias, eating disorders, addictions, and obsessions. Types of deviations are considered as separate mental disorders and as symptoms of a certain syndrome, a disease. Diagnosis is performed by clinical and psychological methods. Treatment includes the use of medications, psycho-correction, psychotherapy, and social rehabilitation measures.

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