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My daughet is 18 and she is demontrating strong passive aggresive behavior. Please advise what to do, I have told er about her behavior and have asked her toread more about it, she can stay silent for hours or days and not respond. Tamara

By February 4, 2010 - 7:03pm
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Welcome to EmpowHER, and thank you so much for writing. Let's see if we can help.

Has this behavior just started? Or has she always been this way, but it's gotten worse?

Can you tell us a little bit more about your daughter's life?
Is she in school, and if so, does she do well in school?
Does she have friends, and if so, do you like her friends?
What are her moods like? Is she more likely to be sad when she's alone, or mad?
Is she on any medications?
Does she have any medical conditions?

When she is passive-aggressive, she is expressing her emotions -- her feelings of anger or hostility -- in a way that works for her in some way. It is a coping strategy for her, even though she may not be aware of that.

I thought this was a good page exploring passive-aggressive behavior:


Not all people who use passive-aggressive actions have passive-aggressive behavior disorder, but there IS an actual disorder that could be present here. Here is a list of the symptoms:

* putting things off
* "forgetting" to do things others ask
* being stubborn
* disliking people who are in charge, or having a bad attitude about them
* complaining frequently
* working poorly or slowly on purpose
* feeling unappreciated
* blaming problems on others
* being irritable
* disliking the ideas of other people, even if they are useful
* arguing frequently

Are all these a part of your daughter's behavior? And have they been present for a long time?

This page also mentions treatment:

Do you think your daughter would go to talk therapy, either with you or by herself? It might be a real help to her. It might give her more of a voice and it might give you some good tools to help in breaking the cycle of arguing and silence.

Does this help at all?

February 5, 2010 - 9:24am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Diane Porter)

Hi Tamara

I love Diane's advice to you!

I also want to add that this behavior with teens is fairly typical in some cases. I was your daughter and so were many others I grew up with. (However, I still feel it was justified but that's another talk show!)
In her mind - maybe she does not trust or even like adults much because as grown as they are, adults still want to run our lives. Nobody gets teens, no-one cares to even try to understand them, so why bother? Adults didn't grow up with today's issues and struggles so communication can rapidly diminish. Think back at being a teen and try to see her views. And she'll need to afford you the same courtesy. Being a teen is not an excuse to be aggressive and hostile towards parents.

I worry about labels like "passive-aggressive" because if it's true - it's good to get it out on the table. However, it could also be "typical teenager" and hauling her off to therapy when her behavior is a natural reaction to hormonal and emotional changes, as well as cultural and societal influences, might do more harm than good. As a teen, she may put the "crazy" card on herself, even if no-one else does and we often become what we fear or what we've been told we may be.

I agree with Diane that talk therapy may give her more of a voice; in fact it could be just what you both need! Just make sure she knows it's for BOTH of you and not just her.

Again, I am in no way saying she is NOT depressed or she doesn't have an issue with passive-aggression. She may well be and needs help and support. But go easy on looking up psychological terms and behavioral problems and somewhat diagnosing her before she has had even be evaluated.

Like Diane said, there may be something going on in her life that you're unaware of - something that's causing her stress or pain. A professionally trained therapist could really help you here and your daughter may be crying out for help and going about it the wrong way because she's at a loss on how to get help.

I know that being a teen is tough and being a mom of one is just a tough. I think you're doing an incredible job of trying to mend things and make your daughter's life better - she's lucky to have you!

Please keep us updated in how things go.

February 5, 2010 - 12:42pm
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