Understanding The Way the Teen Brain Works 101

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How many television shows or movies have you seen exploring the teenage mind? There are many pages of scripts devoted to the idea of teenagers being unstable or rapidly changing due to puberty. There are many changes that happen during those formative years, but they are often overstated or ignored to fit into a wider narrative about coming of age. Some of these misconceptions could cause severe risks to understanding these youths and what they are going through. After all, we have all gone through it– but some of us remember it better than others.

Modern medical science is explaining more and more about the teenage mind and body and how it affects behavior.

Let’s review some of the common myths and their effects:

  • It’s often considered a given that hormones released during puberty drives teens crazy. There’s so many tropes in popular culture that it is nearly redundant. Instead, medical science is finding more and more that the changes often do not result directly due to hormones but instead due to massive changes happening in their brain structure.
  • Teens are often told to just grow up or grow out of something. Sometimes this is appropriate but many other times it is a misunderstanding of what the young person is going through and thinking. There are often causes that lead to large changes of behavior. Many of these changes or fads serve as a chance for a teen to be able to determine what the world around them is like, often with little risk. Many actions that are considered different are a means to testing the social norms and their own abilities. Instead of coming off as immature, many teens are instead just acting their own age– and should be allowed to.
  • Many teens need structure in their life. It might seem that teens are a non-stop battle with rebellion. Instead, many truly respect their parents and are in need of barriers rather than simply punishments. Often blind or heavy punishments serve to push the teenager further away and into a seeming isolation. A recent article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science explored the role of social pressures and reinforcement on young people. It stated that, “peer-related stimuli may sensitize the reward system to respond to the reward value of risky behavior.” This reinforces the idea that character building begins at home for even the most seemingly rebellious teen.

Teens are not an alien life-form in your house. They’re rational beings, just as you were at that age. There are factors that could affect their judgement and actions, but can often be shown a good example and led to the right path rather than an injurious one.

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