Anyone working closely with teenagers has witnessed it. Teenagers defy logic. Their propensity for taking risks has launched a thousand campaigns from “anti-smoking” and “not texting while driving” to “teen pregnancy” and “teen suicide prevention.”
Neuroscience has demonstrated that the adolescent years are among the most dynamic and transformational time periods in brain development. Changes range from increased hormone production to formation of new brain circuitry.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, during adolescence, “. . . the parts of the brain involved in keeping emotional, impulsive responses in check are still reaching maturity. Such a changing balance might provide clues to a youthful appetite for novelty, and a tendency to act on impulse—without regard for risk.”
And while teachers and parents of teens battle the apparent attitude that accompanies these brain changes we can often misunderstand the intentions of a teenage mind. Although, statistically speaking, there are dangers associated with the teenage years it is also a period of incredible brain potential and growth.
In her article, “What Sends Teens Toward Triumph or Tribulation,” Alison Gopnik discusses Laurence Steinberg’s new book on the teenage mind Age of Opportunity. The topics of teenage impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and delinquency are discussed, leading us to a better understanding of how to not just fear but capitalize on these formative years of adolescent brain development.