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The Teenage Brain - What Every Parent Needs to Know

Updated on February 23, 2014

The stereotypical teenager is known for behaviors that parents all over the world consider to be frustrating, confusing and sometimes shocking! What causes these behaviors and why do these teens seem to settle down as they eventually develop into adults?

What's really going on?

The teenage brain, like the rest of their body is still developing. Recent scientific discoveries indicate that substantial changes are still going on in areas like the pre-frontal cortex (the region of the brain located directly behind the forehead which allows us to make decisions, judgments and future plans and affects personal responsibility, morality and self-control). This region of the brain is essentially responsible for activities such as planning, organizing, and impulse inhibition even while teenage hormones are raging.

The Teenage Brain


The Science...

For centuries parents already knew but lacked the scientific evidence that adolescence is a period of tumultuous emotions and bad judgment. Researchers experimented on adolescent rats and discovered that alcohol and nicotine caused brain damage in the “teenaged” rodents in differing ways than in adult rats. While the teenage brain is maturing and vulnerable, teenagers will face certain risks ranging from addictive drugs and alcohol that can take over the brain’s functioning, to the turmoil of schizophrenia (a mental disorder that may include delusions and hallucinations, alterations to the senses, and an altered sense of self), which is known to emerge primarily during the adolescent years.

One scientific study found that participants who initiate chronic marijuana use during adolescence exhibited significant cognitive and intellectual declines by age 38. The study also found that terminating marijuana use during adulthood did not result in complete restoration of these cognitive declines among users who began in their teens.

According to David Fassler, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, at this stage of their brain development, teens are more likely to; act impulsively, misunderstand or misinterpret social cues and emotions, they are less likely think to things through, change their mind, or take a moment to consider the consequences of their actions.

What can parents do with this information?

  • The educated and aware parent will understand that need to provide a calm nurturing environment for their teen even when it seems unreasonable.
  • Provide regular exposure to new physical and mental activities, and even exciting but safe life experiences.
  • Talk to your teens about the dangers and long term consequences of any type of drug or alcohol abuse. Monitor their social activities to minimize their exposure to such threats.
  • Provide your teen with the whole picture of the realities and consequences of all types of sexual activity. This knowledge combined with wisdom may offer the most effective protection.
  • Communicate with your teen, as much as possible, in text and Twitter-sized installments. One advantage of this approach is that you get a chance to think before you speak, which is highly recommended!

An educated parent will become a better parent. Just turn this new knowledge into consistent action and I am sure the teen years will pass by quicker than you think!


The text on this page, unless otherwise indicated, is owned by happiness coach (karen mcgibbon) who hereby asserts her copyright on the material. Permission must be granted by the author in writing prior to copy or republish this article in print or online. Thank you.

© karen mcgibbon

I understand my teen's actions

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The Teenage Brain - What Every Parent Needs to Know has helpful information. Great hub and I learned more about how a teenager thinks.

    • jabelufiroz profile image


      5 years ago from India

      Useful advice and tips HAPPINESS COACH. Voted up.


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