By Raj Harripersad

Recently a concerned mother said that she was overwhelmed by her unruly teenage son’s oppositional and defiant behaviors. She felt confused because her older daughter was the model child, while her son was quite the opposite, even though they were siblings their behaviors couldn’t be more contrasting. We know that children can be affected by biological, psychological and social factors and there is a combination of both nature and nurture that affects child development and behaviors. This begs some questions, are boys victims of their teenage hormones? Why do teenage girls behave in a different way? Or is this caring mom overwhelmed by raising a truly troubled young male?

Well, Boys typically are more aggressive and girls are naturally more in tuned with emotions and have better verbal skills. Making the comparison between the behaviors of each gender, well, that could be clichéd. This blog offers some thoughts about how hormones can affect teenagers by gender, and its hope is to help a mom with loving intentions really identify gender differences between her children and make some sense about difference in gender behaviors. What does research say about the influence of hormones between genders in adolescent development?

The influence of hormones on developing adolescence.

            Boys and girls are both affected by the secretion of testosterone (a “male” hormone) and estrogen (a “female” hormone), but the amounts are based on gender type. Boys secrete more testosterone while girls secrete more estrogen.  It is common knowledge that boy’s behaviors are affected by testosterone, so adolescent boys have a tendency to be more competitive and show more aggression than girls. Girls secrete more estrogen compared to boys and girls have a tendency to be more nurturing or friendly and are typically emotionally driven and less aggressive than boys during teen years. To add to this consideration it would appear that hormones play a vital part in adolescent brain development, which influences feelings, thinking and eventually the behaviors of boys and girls.

According to Lisdahl, Gilbart & Wright (2013, p.4) in the developing adolescent brain gray matter synaptic pruning influences the executive functioning regions within the brain that controls problem-solving and emotion regulation, which remains until teenagers mature into their mid-twenties. Furthermore, the rate of neurodevelopment occurs according to the individual’s gender with girls experiencing earlier gray matter peaks in their executive centers than boys (Lisdahl et al., 2013).

The abovementioned research evidences would suggest that girls mature emotionally faster than boys and accomplish better “social maturity” by showing behaviors with more emotional consideration. However, boys will lag slightly behind in “social maturity.” It also appears that female adolescents may develop faster and better working memory and emotional regulation than boys. While girls are more emotional they are able to control their acting out and oppositional behaviors. Therefore, the stereotype of boys being more “aggressive” compared to girls being more “emotionally” driven appears to be correct.


As we discussed in the beginning of this blog hormones and gray matter alone are not solely responsible for gender stereotypic behaviors because as there is also a cultural and social ideas that influence behaviors and gender identity. Armed with this knowledge we can have a base of understanding, use empathy and caring for teenage boys that are out of control. School programs, adolescent groups, family therapy and medication have been showed to help in reducing oppositional and defiant behaviors, but what could the caring mom in question do when these approaches are not working to help her son?


Other than hormones, mental health disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and substance abuse with comorbid learning disorders could also account for an out of control and aggressive son. Hormones are only part of the dilemma and education alone will not offer a solution, but it’s a first step. What to do if parenting skills or inpatient treatment is not working? In Outpatient services the patient or resident enters in the day, but go home at night, whereas, in inpatient facilities the patient or resident stays for a specified period that is usually long-term.

As a result, residential long term services that focuses on assisting adolescent boys whom struggle with life-controlling issues, making productive choices or being unmanageable might be the best solution if parenting skills, therapy or outpatient services are not helpful. So if the mom in question feels like she has done everything she can out of love and tried inpatient treatment options and it doesn’t work. Then, the option of residential long-term treatment could be the next step that provides hope and help for her son and family.


Lisdahl, K. M., Gilbart, E. R., & Wright, N. E. (2013). Dare to Delay?: The Impacts of Adolescent Alcohol and Marijuana Use Onset on Cognition, Brain Structure and Function. Frontiers In Psychiatry, 42-62. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00053