Nurture Shock: Chapter 7 – The Science of Teen Rebellion Part 1

Although this chapter doesn’t really relate to me now, it was still a very interesting read.  It is also good preparation for me when my boys eventually become teenagers – although I often wish that they never grow up.  What can I say?  I’m enjoying them too much at this cute and adorable age.

All my life, my biggest fear of being a parent was the part when I’d have to deal with a teenager.  I’ve seen kids go wrong and doing all the things every parent has nightmares about and I wonder what any parent can do to keep a teenager on the straight and narrow.  Although I’ve never caused my parents any grief while I was a teenager, I do realise it is because I was lucky to have friends who were generally pretty well behaved.  What if I had met the wrong crowd?  Things might not have gone so well.

Now that I am a parent, what can I do to help my children stay out of trouble?  That was what I hoped to find out from reading Chapter 7 from Nurture Shock – The Science of Teenage Rebellion.  I’m afraid the scientific findings were none too comforting…

One of the general beliefs is that if you keep a teenager busy enough, they won’t have time to get into trouble.  It is often thought that adolescents turn to sex and drinking because they are bored.  A study on teenagers revealed that:

  • teenagers lie a lot more than parents would like to think.
  • teenagers mostly lie about drinking, drug use and their sex lives.
  • teenagers don’t like emotional intrusiveness, e.g. “How serious is this relationship?”
  • teenagers concoct outright lies 1/4 of the time to cover up the worst stuff.
  • teenagers half the time they withhold information they know would upset their parents.
  • the remaining 1/4 of the time they avoid the topic and hope their parents won’t bring them up.
  • 96% of the teenagers surveyed reported lying to their parents.
  • even honours students and busy, overscheduled teenagers lie – no teenager is too busy to lie about something.
  • the most common reason for lying was to protect their relationship with their parents – many teenagers wanted to avoid disappointing their parents.

A study on parents found that:

  • many parents believed that the best way to remain informed is to be more permissive.
  • parents feared being too strict might lead to outright rebellion.

The reality was:

  • parents who were more permissive and failed to set rules did not learn more about their children’s lives.
  • teenagers who go wild are the ones who have permissive parents who don’t set rules.
  • lack of rules communicates to the teenagers that their parents don’t really care about them.
  • pushing a teenager into outright rebellion by having too many rules is a myth.
  • teenagers dislike seeking help from parents because it is an admission that they are not mature enough to handle things on their own.
  • teenagers need to have certain things in their lives that are “none of your business”.
  • the objection to parental authority peaks at 14-15, not at 18 as is most commonly thought, and resistance is stronger at 11 than it is at 18.
  • oppressive parents with lots of psychological intrusion had the most obedient teenagers, however, those teenagers were also depressed.

Part 2


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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