Notes for Adolescent Problems, Disturbances:
Mental Health Stress, and Coping
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504 Instructor: D. Witt
Mental Health Disturbances
Most of what passes for depression is often only depressed mood arising from a situational dilemma
However Depressive Syndromes (a wider range of symptoms than just sadness) are serious.
Diagnostic Criteria for Mild Depressive Disorder:
All three are more likely to occur as the teenager approaches and goes through puberty.
After puberty, the likelihood of depression decreases.
The gender difference here is that there is a higher prevalence among girls.Interestingly, depression often occurs concomitantly with the use of drugs. Further depression and drug use are often linked to suicide attempts.
Suicide Among Adolescents
Suicide attempts are the result of a relatively long standing and developing negative attitude.
Some Warning Signs:
All suicide threats are meaningful and should be taking seriously. Even overhearing someone making such a threat should be reported to school officials or parents. With support from friends and family, and professional treatment, children who are suicidal can heal and return to a more healthy path of development. Again, suicide - depression - drug use/abuse are often part of the same, larger pathology. Something's the matter - these behaviors are symptomatic of a perceived dilemma.
What to do when a teenager you know shows some of the warning signs?
Sometimes our relationship with food surpasses this type of neurotic behavior, moving into one of the two main categories of Eating Disorder. It happens to girls much more often than to boys.
Eating disorders are apparently easy to hide for years, often being discovered almost by accident. The "causes" of eating disorders can be seen by looking closely at the typical victims - young women. In our society, thinness is glorified in the fashion magazines, and other media. The idea is that thin is more attractive than even normal weight. In study after study, women report being dissatisfied with their weight. Some women are capable of maintaining this dissatisfaction while weight as little as 70% of their ideal, optimal, healthiest body weight. Conversely, young men can be as much as 30% overweight and still report satisfaction with their weight.
This preoccupation with body image beyond healthiness, is
yet another way the culture fosters unhealthy attitudes in
the population. For more information on psychological
disturbances in teenagers, try these links:
Teenagers take drugs for different reasons and certainly take drugs for different reasons from their adult counterparts. For each reason there is a socially (morally) appropriate response we could make:
The root causes of maladaptive behaviors and patterns of thought often are associated with mediating factors:
There's a lot of money to be made in the sale of drugs to adolescents, and even more to be made in the individual arrest, incarceration, and treatment of teenagers for drug related crimes. Truthfully, while no responsible person wants teenagers to use drugs, the real solutions to drug problems in American society have more to do with adults and public policy than with teenagers themselves.
Kai T. Erikson, Merton Social Structure & Anomie - the idea here is that society provides "ends" or goals that are widely shared, but doesn't provide equal "means" or avenues to the realization of goals. Thus someone who wants to be rich might steal instead of work hard. Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
Chicago School of Social Science's terms Anomie & Alienation, along with the work of I.I. Thomas, E. Durkheim are important in this discussion. The idea being that through a series of evolutionary events, some people find themselves on the margins of social life. Where they once were happy as carpenters who were responsible for building the whole house, now they are nailers, who only nailing boards together at the "house factory". They suffer an extreme loss of identity, resulting in anomie (feelings of never being satisfied). In their search for satisfaction, they experiment with cults, or sex, or drugs. Read Rivethead by Ben Hamper.
Differential Association - Sutherland & Cressy - the idea here is that when born into an environment that is developmentally pathological, one associates with the wrong crowd, resulting in the transmission of deviant values and behaviors. Read Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land.\
Is the problem of drug & alcohol abuse a
sociological or psychological problem?
Primary & Secondary Deviance - the idea here
is that almost everybody engages in primary deviance of
some kind. This is usually trivial behavior that goes
unnoticed until an official labeling event takes place.
Here's a story, told by my teacher C. Eddie Palmer. It
seems there once were two boys who plotted to steal
bubblegum from a local candy store. The store owner saw
one of the boys and called the police. When captured by
the police, the boy who was identified kept his mouth
shut and went to the reformatory, where he learned a
whole bunch of criminal behaviors from the boys inside.
All this time, the boy who escaped continued in school,
as usual. After the reformatory, the boy with the record
was labeled as a bad kid by the people in the
neighborhood. Every time something turned up missing, he
was blamed. "Oh, there goes the thief!" they would say.
Finally, the bad kid gave up trying to behave and
submitted to every criminal impulse he had.
We can't always be sure that reasoning behind drug use is psychological and individual if there are societal underpinnings. One this is true, we can't solve social problems with psychological tactics. Prior to therapy we have to remove the outside causes.
The first law enforcement agency assigned to removing illicit alcohol from society was Eliot Ness and the Treasury Department of the Federal Government, which turned into the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms after Prohibition was repealed. After the distribution of alcohol was legalized, the agencies needed a new criminal offense to go after, so they began concentrating on marijuana and narcotics. At the time there were very few criminals in the drug business. As the agencies grew, so did the drug problem.
The idea here is that the policing of drug distribution might have less to do with law enforcement and the public welfare as it does with the encouragement of bureaucracy. Further, as we add to the numbers of social control agents, we are increasing the likelihood that they will find people to charge with crimes. What happens when we catch all the criminals - what'll happen to all those police officers? This won't happen because
Drugs in today's youth market in order of their preference among high school students who use them.
Males are using a wider variety of drugs with more
C. Risk Factors
-psychological factors - individuals with certain personality characteristics - easily angered, highly impulsive, easily depressed, those who have achievement difficulties, and those who have been taught tolerant attitudes about deviance in general.
-interpersonal factors - those with distant, hostile, or conflicted family relationships, those with parents who are permissive or are users themselves.
-contextual - those living in a social context that makes drug use easier - ease of availability, lax community norms, inability of social control agents to enforce laws, mass media presentation of drug culture as glamorous.
Similarly there are factors that Decrease the likelihood of substance abuse:
Functions of Drug Use
To say that something is functional means that it serves some useful purpose or need - either to the individual or to society. In the case of drug use among adolescents, drug use as-a-problem provides jobs for police, lawyers and other legal types. It sells newspapers. It provides a rasion d'etre for therapists, counselors, and others in the helping professions.
Drug use also serves a personal function. The drug subculture arises as a reaction to urban competitiveness and the omnipresence of urban-industrialism in the form of an escape from its rigors.
Pretty simple, really. Kids take drugs so they won't have to compete. As members of a new subculture, they have their own norms and values (which is part of adolescence - to fool the adult crowd). They can belong to a group that values their presence. Further, the drug user can skirt competition by using denial, what Matza calls Techniques of Neutralization:
With adequate family life, a teenager can internalize the norms and values that lead to health and social conformity.
B. Primary Group Controls - from family, friends, work groups - if the primary group is not in favor of the behavior in question, the individual will be more likely to change.
C. Secondary Group Controls - through fines, bonuses, threat of imprisonment - if society implements a near zero-tolerance for the behavior, it will diminish.
D. Control through Force, Coercion and Punishment - From a societal point of view, individuals can be made examples for others to see. An old sailor told me a story once that is relevant here. When he was in Navy recruit training in the early 1940s, he was asked to witness the punishment phase of a Courts Martial in which the offender was being "drummed" out of the Naval Service. Whatever his crime, his judges thought it was severe enough to warrant the following treatment:
He was marched into the center of a large parade ground that was lined with sailors/witnesses. In the center of the field there were three men, an officer who would read his punishment, and two enlisted sailors who were to rip and tear all military insignia from the prisoner's clothing. All this time, there were drummers playing the same, slow cadence. After all the military markings were torn away from his clothing, the legs, sleeves, and front and back of his shirt were ripped open. Then they took away his shoes. He was ordered to turn around and march to the front gate of the Navy base. As he walked away, all the witnesses turned their backs to him. When he got to the gate, his escorts opened it and shoved him through it.
This depiction of a Successful Degradation Ceremony
illustrates the power of social control when applied
ruthlessly and publicly. The point of it was not to make
an impression on the prisoner, who was thought to be
morally bankrupt. The point of the ceremony was to
encourage good behavior from all who witnessed the
For further reading see;