Yes, teens do have a psychological need to become independent. It is hard to let go, yet time to do so...in small steps and as they are earned.
Do not hesitate to express your pleasure and pride in them when they DO act responsibly. Asking their opinion about issues seems one of the best ways to improve communication.
At the same time, to ignore irresponsible behavior and verbal abuse from a teen is to encourage more of it. When teens begin a trend of this, it is time to act - but with calm dignity - avoid verbal battles. Make expectations and consequences known and then be consistent.
While it is nearly impossible to force a defiant teen to DO the things we want them to do, I'm amazed at the number of parents who continue giving them money, privileges, cell phones, etc. in the face of defiant and irresponsible behavior.