Brain Development and Teen Behavior
Brains “Under Construction”
Did you know the brain continues to develop throughout adolescence? In fact, it is not fully developed until mid-twenties.
The parts of the brain responsible for big-picture thinking, impulse control and planning — hallmarks of adult behavior — are among the last to mature, National Institute of Mental Health research shows. This helps explain adolescents’ emotional instability.
Ongoing brain development, hormonal changes and stress can cause shifts in sleep regulation all affecting teen emotional and mental health in significant ways, leading to:
- difficulty maintaining attention
- emotional responses being more sensitive
- increased impulsive behavior
- increased delinquent behavior
How might brain development influence how you interact with teens?
Knowing that teen brains are still “under construction” can help you see teens from a different perspective — and lead you to respond to them differently.
- BE PATIENT with adolescents. They are learning a new skill — regulating emotions.
- CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT in which teens can learn, experiment and explore — socially, emotionally and personally.
- ENCOURAGE healthy decision making, and an awareness of dangers and risks. Understand that these skills are not fully developed during the teen years.
- BE CONSCIOUS that adult-to-teen conversations about emotions and decision making can easily be misunderstood. Recognize that adolescents think from different parts of the brain than you do.
- REDUCE NEGATIVE COMMENTS about adolescence. It’s a learning stage. Many teen behaviors are normal and appropriate based on brain development.
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