October 21, 2016

He can’t help it. Credit: Muhammed Rehan / Flickr Creative Commons.Photo Caption Text

We blame teenagers for a lot: they’re melodramatic, they stay up late and sleep all day, they mess around with drugs and alcohol. But, according to Frances Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, we’d better get off our high horse. She says there’s a scientific explanation for their behavior - and the reasons are rooted in brain development.

Three Takeaways:

  • Teens get a bad rap for impulsivity. But according to Jensen, it’s not their fault. During our teenage years, areas of the brain that control things like emotions and pleasure are fully-developed. But, connections between these areas and areas associated with self-control, logic, and decision-making aren’t fully formed until years later. The result? Like driving a car with no brakes. 
  • Addiction is learned behavior. And teenage brains are way better at learning than adults. Throw in drugs and alcohol, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction that’s way more potent than it is for adults. 
  • Why can’t you get your kid up in the morning? Teenage brains don’t release melatonin - the chemical that tells our body that it’s time to go to sleep - until several hours later than adults. That explains why they love staying up so late - and why they’re so hard to get out of bed when its time for school.

More Reading:

innovation hub, NPR, Frances Jensen, Kara Miller, WGBH

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