How to deal with the increase in cases of antisocial behavior in adolescents


There are more and more cases of children and adolescents who show aggressive behavior, instability and who commit crimes.

Coping with this situation requires taking into account different risk factors that affect each person differently. Factors related to unfavorable social environments, inappropriate family educational styles or mental health problems draw a complex scenario that calls for interdisciplinary treatment.

These behaviors are also a reflection of a society in which this group is subject to misunderstanding and exclusion. A society characterized by the need for immediate reward, low tolerance for discomfort and authority, and individualism.

Emotional fragility: the origin

More and more adolescents are emotionally fragile . This fragility can end up becoming irritability, aggressiveness, difficulty establishing affective bonds and impulsiveness; and also lead to an increase in antisocial behavior.

On many occasions, children and adolescents who have this type of behavior come from multi-problematic families and have not been able to provide an educational and safe environment. Their conduct includes acts that harm others, often in the form of aggression, or that violate social norms and the rights of others.

Types of behavior

As the psychologist Benito de la Iglesia puts it, children and adolescents who suffer from these disorders become angry, cannot control their impulses, argue with adults and challenge them, refusing to comply with their orders or the established rules.

They confront over and over again the people who care for them and any educator who puts limits on their tendency to do what they want at any given moment. They deliberately annoy their colleagues and, on top of that, they often accuse them of their mistakes or bad behavior.

But for this author it is important to deepen and understand the causes that cause these behaviors. For them to be reduced or disappear, it is necessary to prevent them and intervene in them.

Intervention levels

Other risk factors that contribute to these behaviors are absenteeism and school failure, substance abuse and addiction to social networks.

In many of these cases we find violent behavior both towards him and towards others. They are behaviors that influence the people around them, whether they are tutors, fathers, mothers, teachers, friends or other people in their close circle.

It is therefore a social problem that must be addressed from different levels: institutions, community, family, school, educators.

Childhood and adolescence: key moments

Childhood and adolescence are key moments to work on criminal behavior and aggressiveness. The characteristic behaviors of this conduct disorder usually manifest before the age of 15.

Many times there is a family history or they have been victims of abuse or neglect during childhood. In addition, they usually live in environments of instability, violence or with family educational styles of poor communication, low stimulation of emotional skills and lack of a clear framework of rules of conduct.

Both childhood and adolescence are crucial times in which experiences have a direct impact on personality and identity. For this reason, it is necessary to work on the conflictive situations that arise at this time so that their effects are not irreparable.

Once established, this type of behavior does not usually have a very good prognosis and tends to worsen when reaching adulthood and lead to problems with the law or mental health. That is why its prevention in the first years of life is so important.

The role of educators and social educators

Social educators occupy an essential place when it comes to launching interventions in different areas, whether they are associations, residences or other participation mechanisms for minors.

In these areas, educators find themselves with more vulnerable minors, with multi-problematic realities and more risk factors than the general sample of minors. Many times these people come from broken families, have been exposed to violence, have behavioral problems, affective deficits, mental illness, previous experiences of abuse , psychopathology, antisocial personality, attitudes that favor violence, violent dating relationships and situational factors. , such as alcohol or drug use, anxiety and stress.

Previous studies confirm the need to deepen the intervention with these minors under residential care. The characteristics of this group is more vulnerable. For this reason, the figure of social educator has an essential and necessary accompanying role, since it collaborates in cognitive and emotional development as well as in their maturation process from a community perspective.

This professional figure can diagnose possible difficulties of minors in the socio-educational field and help overcome them with social and educational methods. Always in coordination with other professional agents such as teachers, social agents…

What tools are needed?

To learn how to act in these situations, we must acquire basic social tools and skills: we need to approach these people in the appropriate way, and gradually establish a relationship of trust.

Sometimes, social education professionals are overwhelmed by very complex cases and burnout syndrome appears , with stress, anxiety, depression or accompanying psychosomatic symptoms.

Their training must be specific and scientific in the bonding and accompaniment process. Also in the healthy approach to these critical situations of violence and in the generation of educational contexts that prevent them. And in skills for the care of one’s own health and the prevention of wear and tear in these stressful situations.

A specific master’s degree

The University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) will carry out the first edition of a master ‘s degree to develop skills in socio-educational action with adolescents and young people at risk and in social conflict.

In this master’s degree, professionals who work in different areas will train social education professionals from a multidisciplinary perspective. They will offer psychoeducational strategies for coping with violent and antisocial behaviors, and skills to enable an adequate accompaniment and educational link.

They will also learn intervention techniques with vulnerable youth at risk and social conflict from a validating emotional bonding model that is being carried out in different resources.

We believe that it is necessary learning for professionals to improve their practice and help children and adolescents to improve their quality of life that achieves social transformation in synergy.

Author Bios: Maria Dosil-Santamaría is Professor in the Department of Educational Sciences in the area of ​​Research Methods and Diagnosis in Education, Amaia Eiguren Munitis is Professor of the Department of Didactics and School Organization. Faculty of Education of Bilbao, Israël Alonso is Professor in the Department of Didactics and School Organization in the Faculty of Education, Maitane Picaza Gorrotxategi is Doctor of Education, Department of Didactics and School Organization, Look Nekane Beloki Arizti is Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Work, Naiara Berasategui Sancho is Professor in the Department of Didactics and School Organization and Naiara Ozamiz Etxebarria is Associate Professor in the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology of the Faculty of Education all at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitate