Positive Youth Identity Development for Troubled Teens


All teenagers are tasked with taking their first steps towards individual identity development when they reach the age of adolescence. Developing a healthy or positive identity as a teenager can become challenging when peer pressure, media, and pop culture influences are constant. A negative identity in teens is unfortunately common in today’s culture. In our opinion as a therapeutic boarding school for girls, the causes of youth problems are often a result of adopted negative identity beliefs.

If you want to learn more about teen positive identity development during your teen’s adolescence and how to help your troubled teen get there, this article is for you.

Identity Development Theory

As stated in Kohlberg’s theory of adolescent development,“The independence that comes with adolescence requires independent thinking as well as the development of morality — standards of behavior that are generally agreed on within a culture to be right or proper.”

If adolescence is the time when your teen will develop their morality, what happens when they’re constantly exposed to a culture that values radical individualism, selfishness, vanity, and greed? What we commonly see at Greenbrier is that when adolescents begin to adopt these values, they struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

In the decades that we’ve been helping troubled teen girls and their families, we’ve found there are a few essential ingredients to positive identity development.

Essential Ingredients to Adolescent Positive Identity

Here are some key ingredients to help your teen develop positive identity beliefs during adolescence. Essential ingredients to adolescent positive identity include:

  • An outlet to invest and contribute to their community, (service projects, volunteer work, humanitarian trips)
  • Positive mentorships that inspire them to be their best selves, (teachers, coaches and/or mentorship programs)
  • A peer group built on virtue and mutual support
  • and support to prioritize their personal values when making important life decisions (planning for college, internships, as well as engaging in extracurricular activities)

All of the factors that contribute to positive identity development emphasize the usefulness of a positive  community. This may be the single most important aspect of positive identity development during adolescence.

Teenage Volunteer Programs

If your teen is saying things like “there’s no point to life” or “no one would even care if I wasn’t here”, consider putting them in a volunteer program. It’s difficult to believe that you have no value or that there’s no point to life when you experience the transformation that comes from helping others.

At our therapeutic boarding school for girls, we have international and local humanitarian service projects every week to build a positive sense of identity in our students. Whether it’s a children’s school for the deaf in Jamaica or a weekend trip to the local animal shelter, our students learn how powerful and positive their impact can be in this world.

The results are life changing.

If your teen daughter is struggling with negative identity beliefs, our therapeutic boarding school might be able to help. Give us a call today at 1-877-788-8422

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