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Minerva Pediatrica 2006 December;58(6):513-24


language: English

Expressions of discomfort in adolescents. Clinical reflections resulting from an exploratory study of a group of students

La Grutta S. 1, Guarneri M. 2, Nastri L. 2, Schiera G. 1, Lo Baido R. 2, Sarno L. 3, Roccella M. 1

1 Department of Psychology University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy 2 Postgraduate School of Psychiatry University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy 3 Unit of Psychotherapy Vita Salute University San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy


Aim. The aim of this study was to explore some fundamental dimensions of adolescent discomfort relating to food, the body, sexuality, relationships in general and health care.
Methods. We recruited 206 students (66 males, 140 females; average age=19.4±2) and we administered 4 questionnaires: the first two to examine their relationship with food, the third to explore adolescents’ attitudes to their social context, sexuality and first sexual experiences; the fourth to measure their ability to look after their health.
Results. The results show the different role that sexual styles have in the expression of juvenile discomfort. Girls tend to live the discomfort by mentalizing it in relationships and sexuality and contextualizing it in their bodies; boys direct their discomfort towards occasional drug taking or drug addiction, or alcohol abuse, the excitement of speed, or dangerous driving.
Conclusions. In clinical work with adolescents it seems appropriate to refer to the relational gradient of risk behaviours, that is their linking function within their peer group. Behaviours with a high relational gradient, which develop within the group or are related to the group, in most cases are normal modalities for facing the important challenges of adolescence. These behaviours are symptoms of the normal process of adolescent development. We should pay particular attention to behaviours with a low relational gradient because they indicate a possible interruption in their development.

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