Although teens generally strive for more independence, some still lack the emotional maturity they need to act responsibly. In an article published on the website for the Catholic Education Research Center, educator and psychologist JoAnn Deak explains that the brains of teenage boys function differently than teenage girls, including how they process emotions and react to challenges. A teenage boy’s moodiness or tendency toward argumentative or reckless behavior might be related to his brain being wired differently.
Research suggests that a young person’s reasoning and judgment continue to develop into the early to mid-20s, according to Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, as reported at Foxnews.com. What that means is teenagers don’t always consider the consequences of their actions and therefore might act impulsively and with a lack of self-control that leads to immaturity.
While raging hormones usually are blamed for unpredictable teen behavior, slow brain maturation might be more responsible. A teen’s risky or inappropriate behavior is more likely associated with a lack of myelin that helps transmit messages to the brain. Fewer nerve connections in the prefrontal cortex of the brain also contribute to poor impulse control. A 2005 article published by "The Guardian" newspaper points out that changes occur in the brain during puberty. These changes affect mood and can lead to risk-taking. While reduced numbers of nerve cells and connections in the prefrontal cortex is a normal stage in brain development, it affects how the brain processes information.
The prefrontal cortex, which is where rational thinking occurs, is one of the last regions of the brain to develop, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Because of the delay in maturation in this area of the brain, some teens have difficulty exercising sound judgment. Teens have less white matter in the frontal lobes of their brains, which explains why they can’t yet regulate strong emotions and might have trouble with impulse control. A 2008 article published in "Harvard Magazine" also supports the theory that there are gender differences in brain development.
Findings of an animal study conducted at Georgia State University found that a part of the brain known as the medial amygdala increases in size during puberty. This increase might be related to aggression and other changes in a teen’s behavior. The amygdala is the area of the brain that affects stress responses and risk-taking behavior. It is also believed to be associated with increased levels of testosterone during puberty. Dr. Bradley Cooke, assistant professor of neuroscience at Georgia State, points out that because the amygdala is particularly responsive to the male sex hormone testosterone, development in this part brain grows larger in teenage boys. Results of the study were published in the January 2011 issue of the “Journal of Endrocrinology.”
- Catholic Education Resource Center: Boys’ Brains Are from Mars
- FoxNews.com: My Brain Made Me Do It -- Immature Brains Linked to Risk-Taking Behavior
- Guardian: It’s Not Just the Hormones
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex
- Georgia State University: Research Shows Brain Changes in Adolescent Boys
- Harvard Magazine: The Teen Brain
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