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The “Teenage Brain”

by Shelly Kneupper Tucker on April 24, 2007©

My husband gave me a newspaper clipping that contained an article from the Texarkana Gazette. It claimed that research is being done on the teenage brain! Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather! I thought that “teenage brain” was an oxymoron. I decided to do a little bit of internet research of my own about this teenage brain. Apparently, I was wrong again; there is such a thing and scientists are studying it.

Now, all you “mommy bloggers” out there should probably stop reading. I don’t want to be the one to disillusion you. I read your sweet posts with amusement, and I coo over the lovely pictures you display of your darling munchkins. I don’t have the heart to scream “enjoy it while it lasts!” You see, one day your little darling’s hormones will kick in, and you won’t know from one day to the next if you are living with Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. You will finally understand why some animals eat their young!

Now, I’m told that girls are worse than boys, but I don’t know that for a fact, because I’ve only dealt with the four boys. My Momma always said I deserved girls, but I can’t imagine what she meant by that. I guess she was talking about the hormonal mood swings, but boys have those too. I always thought the behavior was due to hormones. I thought the thinking was going on somewhere south of the brain.

Neuroscientists at the National Institute for Mental Health have come to a different conclusion. After studying the teenage brain with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they have discovered that the teenage brain is immature. Did they need an MRI to tell them that? Seriously, though, the prefrontal lobe, which is the control panel for the brain and particularly for reasoning and emotional responses (aka “the area of sober second thought”)doesn’t fully develop until a person is in their twenties. For some of the people I’ve known, I’d venture to say, it doesn’t develop at all.

In one study, a group of teens and a group of adults were shown this picture:

fear1.jpg

They were asked to identify the emotion expressed. The study said, “the adults correctly identified the expression as fear. Yet the teens answered ‘shocked, surprised, angry.’” I’m afraid I agreed with the teens on that one. This is the exact same expression I get when I look at the teenager’s room!

Psychologists even postulate that risk taking behavior and foolish actions by teenagers is desirable. It indicates that they are getting ready to “leave the nest.” And, they further state that this kind of behavior helps the teens survive better as adults than those teens who are coddled or controlled. That tidbit of wisdom is not going to keep me from blowing my stack if the police call me in the middle of the night with my teenager in custody!

The upshot of all this scientific psycho-babble is that teenagers will grow out of it. All they need is time to mature, so we parents just have to be patient and have a sense of humor. I wonder how many of our tax dollars got spent on this brilliant research?

{ 17 comments }

TeaMouse April 24, 2007 at 8:53 am

That’s a great post as a mother who is dealing with a 13 almost 14 yo daughter I can attest to her Jekyll and Hyde moments. I half expect to see her head spinning one of these days. Like a flick of a switch she’s all sweet and nice and then BAM! She’s screaming in such gutteral tones she sounds like the devil himself.

This news helps explain a lot. I’ve begun to understand that they aren’t in control a lot of their emotions at this time and I really notice it when she freaks out over the smallest thing and she becomes completely unrational. I think I blogged

I’ve got one of each and let me tell you my son is a million times better to deal with – he had a bit of a problem around 13 too and now he is 17 and there is a bit more as he struggles to find his own independence and we desire to see some more maturity.

Does your daughter remind you of Linda Blair in the Exorcist? Remember that? I know I was probably that way when I was a teenager…in fact, it comes back around in menopause :grin: And, your post is EXACTLY what I’m talking about!~skt

TeaMouse April 24, 2007 at 9:27 am

Totally!!!! The only good thing is I know she’s going to outgrow it – but some days it’s sooooooo hard to deal with! Who said being a mom is easy. My sis has 2 kids 5 and 3 and I tell her enjoy every moment of every day – these are the easiest times you’ll have, well until they’re adults that is.

I’m glad you enjoyed the post – it was fun to re-read it.

I DID enjoy your post. And, kids aren’t easy as adults either!!~skt

amy April 24, 2007 at 9:58 am

What an interesting post…Looking forward to the teen years…hahaha!

It will be an “experience”.~skt

Robyn April 24, 2007 at 10:22 am

Great post. I had both male and female go through it and found one of my daughters worse than the other. The better of the two I actually enjoyed the ups and downs of her teenage years – why is that? Our son lived on another planet but I see signs that his spaceship is preparing to dock.

Thanks, Robyn. Spaceship preparing to dock? I love it. :grin: ~skt

Lisa Milton April 24, 2007 at 10:55 am

I had several moms over yesterday, all with kids under 3. They look at me, ME, like I have it so together – I am just hunkering down and preparing because I know the hard part is yet to come. I didn’t need a study either. My good mama done tol’ me.

I love the sample picture by the way. Good stuff.

You better hunker down, girl, ’cause mama didn’t tell you half of it!~skt

Marcia April 24, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Do I have to sign my name to this? No? Then, OK, I’ll fess up, when I first saw the picture with this post, I thought it was a caricature – and I’d have to lean toward the teenage side, although after you revealed the truth, I could see a teeny bit of fear, but not anger, so if I were your child and that’s the look you had when you looked in my messy room, I’d probably laugh, but don’t tell the kids, I’d hate to undermine you. And yes, our son finally grew up, docked, made a man out of himself; a fine 29 year old, in spite of his mother who identifies photos as a teenager. LOL. Have you read the study that says they are programmed to go to bed late and get up late? Schools need to get on the band wagon – I honestly wonder if there would be fewer outbursts if they were able to sleep the way nature intended, ’cause I know what they are like when they don’t.

You don’t have to sign your name, but the automated link thingie (I have such technological knowledge, don’t I?)knew who you were, so now all the world sees. I can’t believe you sided with the teenagers on that picture. I have indeed read the study about late to bed and late to rise. But, schools will never go for it. Working parents wouldn’t even go for it. So, we’ll just put up with it. Thanks for stopping by.~skt

Freelance Cynic April 24, 2007 at 12:28 pm

The science basically says their teenage brains are wired wrong. When Adults get stressed they stop producing stress hormones and calm down, but teenagers produce more the stress hormone, act crazy and develop new forms of cursing.
The General idea is parents, teens are psychologically screwed. So don’t try to fix them.

You are siding with them aren’t you! Adults don’t necessarily calm down, though. Teenagers don’t develop new forms of cursing, Simon. There is nothing new under the sun.~skt

Robin April 24, 2007 at 1:36 pm

I live in fear of the teenage years. Both my husband and I were a handful and a half, to say the least. We’re either in for a very rough karmic ride, or else our children will end up being super-disciplined arch-conservatives as their particular form of rebellion! (Though watching them at 6 and 3.5 I highly doubt that one…)

Payback is the berries, girl. Karma bites you in the patootie.~skt

Alissa April 24, 2007 at 2:07 pm

5 and 3 were the easy years?! I’m so screwed. I have the 5 year old who has lost her mind sometimes. I’m seriously in for it.

I’m sorry if I burst your bubble. You thought it was going to be easy, didn’t you!~skt

YellowRose April 24, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Mine are 22 and almost 19, my daughter, the 19 year old has been the one to cause me to wonder why I ever chose to give birth! LOL She was fine till she hit 18!! Then BAM, she thought she was an adult! HA HA HA HA Boy did reality have to hit her smack between the eyes for her to realize that being an adult meant more than an age! I’m wishing upon her the same curse my mother wished upon me….”I hope you have a daughter just like you!!!” hee hee

Those tax dollars were wasted on that study, they could have just talked to me! lol

Yeah! The government could have paid US to tell them the obvious! That’s an evil curse, Yellow Rose, but I’ve used it myself on mine. Actually, I hope they have a child JUST LIKE ME! Wouldn’t that drive them over the edge.~skt

Comedy Plus April 24, 2007 at 4:06 pm

One son who ran me crazy for about 4 years. It was a nightmare. Well, I was a nightmare too, so I got paid back. Now he is getting paid back. He complains to me and I just say, Bwahahahahaah!!!

Research for this huh. I think they could have just asked us moms to clear this one up.

One of these days, I want to hear how you actually pronounce “Bwahahahaah!” ~skt

Rose April 24, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Right now in our household we are dealing with the typical teenage behavior of a girl that is almost 17 who is challenging authority and testing rules. I think that she is pmsing a good portion of the 365 days in the year. My husband keeps telling me that our daughter was abducted by aliens and will be returned to us when she is 21. :lol:

Maybe she will be returned at 21. I have a boy who was almost normal until he turned 25…that’s when HIS hormones kicked in!~skt

Jen April 24, 2007 at 7:28 pm

I love the expression they use in Nova Scotia, it’s called “going over Fool’s Hill” when teenagers just think they are all that and then some. They do stupid stuff b/c they are unable to think of the consequences, “what? Me worry?”

You know I am living through it! LOL, read the same study, they could have asked me too!

Fool’s Hill sounds mild. It’s Fool’s Mountain, isn’t it? lol

John Masters April 24, 2007 at 7:48 pm

I’m surrounded by girls, no boys, other than a dog, and possibly our fish (I’m not sure of him, never having looked close enough).

I just learned to keep my head down and my thoughts to myself.

In one of the Grumpy Old Men movies, Burgess Meridith’s character said, “Kids, you can’t live with them, and you can’t shoot ‘em.” Pretty much sums it up for me.

LOL. You crack me up.~skt

Michelle April 24, 2007 at 11:35 pm

I love my children. Love them more the older they get. But somewhere around the time my oldest turned 10 I finally wised up and realized it wasn’t going to get any easier. Teenagers are tougher definitely–more fun too but definitely more work.

It doesn’t get easier…but they DO come around. 10 sounds pretty early…~skt

Patricia Reiser June 3, 2009 at 4:49 pm

As a parent of a teenage girl about to turn 16 next month, I think they should have used the money spent of this research to pamper the mothers of teenagers with a day at the spa! I know I could sure use a day at the spa.

Growing up my mother always said “I can’t wait til you have kids!” I am definitely being paid back for the grief I caused my mother over the years. I am looking forward to the day my kids are grown up and out on their own. I’m going to be waiting for a while. My daughter may be about to turn sixteen but she has a younger brother just 5 years old. What was I thinking!

I am thankful that what grief my daughter has caused me, it is minor and manageable and overall she is decent person (somewhere under that attitude.) :)

Patricia Reisers last blog post..How to Protect Photos You Print at Home from Fading – Photography Tip

Shelly Kneupper Tucker June 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Trust me, the attitude will come and go. “What was I thinking,” indeed–what were you thinking? You weren’t! That’s OK, he will probably give you less grief than a teenage girl will (I’m trying to be optimistic for you :lol:)

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