From bad teenagers to sad teenagers
It is common for the media to come across information about assaults, robberies, fights, cases of harassment, even a murder committed by a teenager who is near or far from where we live. They are news that disturb us, move us and scare us. They abound in an archetype, that of the bad boys, the rebellious, impulsive, dangerous young people who violate the law, egoists willing to go over the other to achieve their own satisfaction, whose contribution to society is questioning, transgression and the destruction. Nothing new under the sun, Socrates already spoke of all this and Shakespeare wrote.
However, for a decade the data indicates that juvenile delinquency in Spain has been declining slowly but consistently. We have progressively gone from 18,237 minors convicted in 2010 to 13,595 in 2021. Beyond the news of events, adolescents commit fewer and fewer crimes, with the exception of those of a sexual nature.
At this same time we have been observing how in adolescence there was an increase in mental health problems. Particularly those that have a depressive basis. In a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014, entitledHealth for the world’s adolescents, depression was already the leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents ages 10 to 19. Suicide has become the leading cause of death among men between the ages of 15 and 29. and hospitalizations for self-harm between the ages of 10 and 24 have almost quadrupled in recent decades: from 1,270 in 2000 to 4,048 in 2020.
In the clinical consultation, the main cause of demand by the families of adolescents is no longer bad behavior, but the sadness, anxiety, isolation, cuts, difficulties in relating or lack of interest in activities outside the home. Even centers for minors, whether in the field of protection or juvenile justice, which have traditionally dealt with transgression, are being progressively therapeuticed, with greater or lesser success, in order to take charge of these new forms of expression of adolescent malaise. Clinical and educational resources to care for minors who refuse to leave their home, or their room, are becoming more frequent. The suicidal behavior care services already have specialized units for the child and adolescent population.
The expert critic of youth subcultures Oriol Rosell confirms this same change in the representation of the adolescent in the different cultural products directed at them or developed by them. Where before the rebellion, the challenge or the defiance predominated, today we find frequent manifestations of the anguish of living. From Nirvana to Billie Eilish we can trace two decades of youthful despair. series as popular as Euphoria are built around this new social imaginary. In adolescence, bad boys are progressively displaced by sad boys as the central figure.
This change has implications in the focus of the work of accompaniment to these young people, at the level clinical and educational from intervention and from prevention. But it also opens up questions about the difficulty in currently carrying out the process of adolescence; leave childhood behind to reach adulthood. An adulthood that with each step seems more diluted, confused and uncertain in what Bauman called liquid societies.