Why teen-agers act like teen-agers
It’s how their brains are wired – the centers that control evaluating consequences and impulse control aren’t fully wired up yet, making teens more rash, prone to risk-taking behavior, and novelty-seeking.
Teens can’t control impulses and make rapid, smart decisions like adults can — but why?
Research into how the human brain develops helps explain. In a teenager, the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls decision-making, is built but not fully insulated — so signals move slowly.
“Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this,’ ” Dr. Frances Jensen tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.
Jensen, who’s a neuroscientist and was a single mother of two boys who are now in their 20s, wrote The Teenage Brain to explore the science of how the brain grows — and why teenagers can be especially impulsive, moody and not very good at responsible decision-making.
Jensen, who is 58 years old, also describes the changes she observes in her own brain as she gets older. She says she needs sleep more and has more difficulty multitasking.
I’ve observed both of those things in myself. I don’t seem to need more sleep, but I have less tolerance for being sleep-deprived. However, I honestly don’t know whether that’s a result of aging, or whether I was previously just kidding myself about how productive I could be when short on sleep.
Likewise for multitasking – am I getting less capable of multitasking, or has it always been bad and I’m aware of it more now?
She says she writes more notes to herself now – definitely true for me – and finds herself more drawn to writing by hand. That last point is definitely not true for me. I do everything on the computer, phone, or iPad.