The Brain of a Teenager: A Work in Progress

Teenagers often exhibit questionable behavior, leaving the adults in their lives confused about their sensibility. Risky behavior, a bad attitude, and self-centeredness, are all a part of this age group. Parents can become easily frustrated, thinking that their child is turning into a completely different person than the one they so carefully raised. Teenage behavior patterns however, may have a lot to do with the development of the brain. Teenagers are not simply little adults. Their brain still has quite a bit of changing to do before they can respond like adults.


The frontal lobe of the brain is where many important behaviors originate. The lack of connections in this area point to the main issue with teenage behavior. The frontal lobe helps us to come to conclusions about consequences and whether or not certain actions are a good idea. Teenagers have access to their frontal lobe, however, the connections there are not mature enough to give a quick answer to crucial questions. Decisions that adults make very quickly, may take some time for teenagers to make appropriately. They may act before they come up with the correct behavior response, resulting in a poor decision.


There is a fatty substance in the brain that coats the nerves. Teenage brains are lacking in this substance. This coating allows for more reliable connections, as the nerves are somewhat insulated. Adult brains enjoy fast, uninterrupted signals. Teenagers must deal with slow, intermittent ones. The various parts of the brain cannot communicate with each other efficiently.


Most people know that teenagers who start on the path to drinking or doing drugs often become addicted for life. This, too, may have to do with the way their brain works. Young kids and teenagers are hard-wired to learn, and learn fast. This is why education is so important at young ages. The brain makes connections with information very quickly, forming habits. The chemistry in their brain causes it to respond quickly to the many things they see and hear on a daily basis. The brain at this age is very easily stimulated. Addiction, therefore, is a fast learned behavior when substances are made available on a regular basis.


Anyone who lives with, or spends ample time with, a teenager may complain about their disrespectful and self-centered attitude. It takes a lot of thought to bring others into the equation. Teenagers may not be capable of always recognizing how things are affecting other people. This may explain why rude things come out of their mouth and a parent has to clarify that the behavior is unacceptable. Even then, many teenagers seem oblivious to why their actions are inappropriate. They just “don’t get it”. It requires a certain amount of perception to understand how other people are going to feel about the words you say and the actions you take. A level of perception that may not be fully available to young adults until their early 20’s, because it originates in the frontal lobe.

It may be comforting for parents to know that teenage behavior is only temporary. There comes a time in the early 20’s where a young adult begins to act in a more rational way. The connections in the brain mature and the myelin increases, properly coating the nerves. Many teenagers look back and wonder what they were thinking all those years. Most of us can relate to this, by remembering strange fashions, interests, and mistakes that occurred during our middle and high school years. Patience and constant guidance is key to surviving the teenage years.

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