A New Take on Opposition


Source:  gettyimages.com


A website dedicated to changing the conversation on opposition in adolescence.

Oppositionality in adolescence has become synonymous with oppositional defiant disorder.  Caregivers, authority figures, and institutions of authority in our society show little to no tolerance for an adolescent who opposes existing norms, rules, expectations, and the status quo without granting them this label. The message from those in authority is clear to the adolescent: you must comply and conform to our wishes, demands, and definition of who you are and what you can do. When adolescents do not agree with this message and communicate their disagreement through words and actions in a manner the adult or institution in power disagrees with, most are penalized. If the behavior and attitude does not stop within the timeframe set by the adult,  the adolescent is seen as the problem and must be fixed. In today’s world, many adults turn to the Internet for answers. I searched oppositional behaviors in adolescence and the majority of links focused on oppositional defiant disorder, which shapes and reinforces how adults interpret oppositional behaviors exhibited by adolescents as a disorder. This view of oppositionality as a disorder is limiting and puts adults in conflict with youth.

This website will serve as a forum for discussing and learning about the value of opposition. In addition, it will assist parents, adults, and adolescents with developing a balanced and constructive view of opposition as advocacy and understanding opposition’s connection to power in relationships with the self and with others

Opposition needs to be seen on a continuum, with healthy and constructive degrees of opposition as a part of typical development at one end of the continuum and opposition as a disorder at the other end. This idea of opposition as a continuum is important because without healthy degrees of opposition in adolescence, youth will not come into their own and will not develop a separate sense of self, purpose, and identity that serves them in their transition into a healthy, productive, responsible, and satisfying adulthood.

My goal is to change the way opposition in adolescence is seen and the adolescent is treated. It is a healthy part of human development, and not all opposition is a disorder.  

At my site, you will find engaging topics, mini-articles, interesting research-informed and practice-informed discussions, podcasts, photo essays, videos  and much more focusing on the value of opposition in adolescence. We will also explore why opposition is seen as a threat to some adults and institutions of authority (family, school, juvenile justice, child welfare, religion, media, etc.) and what we can do about it as a community and society.

I invite you to journey with me as I seek to question and challenge existing ideas about the value of opposition in adolescent and how it presents as a relational challenge.  

This website connects and expands to my existing study on relational neglect in adolescence–adolescents and their relationships with significant adults in their life.

I am transforming the view of the adolescent as the problem in the family to the problem being located in the neglect of the relationship between the adolescent and his or her significant caregivers in their familial environment.

Opposition in adolescence is experienced and constructed relationally.  It presents as a relational challenge and needs relational interventions.  

As a licensed clinical social worker and  in-home therapist, I receive referrals where the focus is on the adolescent’s behaviors and poor attitudes. Some caregivers are under the illusion that the adolescent’s behaviors were created in isolation—separate from the parent-child relationship, familial environment, and community.  The adults present as victims of the adolescents’ behaviors and just want the adolescents to behave as the adults define and order.  There is no accountability on the part of the adult and community regarding their contribution to the adolescent’s behavior and attitude.

This study will build on my work by looking closer at the relationship between opposition in adolescence and increase awareness and value of the person in adolescence, their experiences, and ways of relating and communicating power and advocacy in relationship to significant others and environments they inhabit.  My hope is to help adults see how they have the greater responsibility to support, mentor, and continue to nurture the connection with their adolescent as he or she develops and transitions into adulthood.  The adult needs to learn to foster interdependent relationships with adolescents, not relationships that foster dependency or push independence.

What I publish in this blog represents my views and study in my DSW program at Rutgers University. I encourage you to respond, add comments and even disagree.  Please keep comments relevant to the topic being discussed at the time. This blog is for everyone: adolescents, family members of adolescents, caregivers, professionals who work with adolescents, policymakers, behavioral and mental health partitioners.


2 thoughts on “A New Take on Opposition

  1. Pingback: Why not opposition in adolescence, who really has a problem with it? – Opposition and Adolescence

  2. As a mother of three daughters at the ages of 18, 13, and 9, I find this a very interesting topic. I sometimes struggle with the balance between telling my kids what to do and think vs allowing them to problem solve and make decisions on their own. I look forward to the discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

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