Thinking! Do teenagers think? Do they think before the act? Why did this seemingly “good” kid make a bad decision?
Risky behaviors usually peek in the late teens. That is when we start to think they are finally maturing. They are on par with adults in several areas: memory, ability to reason, performance on standardized tests, and consequence of risky behavior. So why do they do what they so? They have delusions of invulnerability.
Steinburg uses the analogy of your child’s brain’s neural network to their social network. The move to middle school brings lots of new friends—some are short lived, some are long standing, and cliques form with more common activities. The inner-circle of friends becomes more insulated. All of these changes are happening in the prefrontal cortex (the area of self-regulation) and the limbic system (center of the brain and responsible for emotions).
We begin with the limbic system becomes active. This is the highs and lows. The extreme emotions. Impulsive behaviors. Pleasure seeking with no regard for consequences. This often happens before the teen years with early developers. Around 16, the prefrontal cortex is better organized and executive functions are improving; the 14-17 year old can reason a bit better. By the early 20s the brain is working in a more unified manner. You child will become better at controlling impulses.
If you are like me, until this class, I related everything to hormones. It is, in fact, their brains developing. By the time they reach adulthood, the prefrontal cortex will be in charge with assistance from other areas as needed.
Stay tuned for what you can do as a parent.
Reference: Age of Opportunity, Laurence Steinberg, Ph. D.