TEENS LESS LIKELY TO CONSIDER OTHER'S FEELINGS WHEN DECIDING. If the teens in your life sometimes seem oblivious to the feelings of those around them, especially when making decisions,…well, maybe they are, according to a new study on the teen brain. Researchers from a British university report that the medial frontal cortex, the part of the brain used to determine others’ motivations, as well as anticipate their reactions to words or incidents, are undeveloped and under-used in teens.
They depend, instead, on the superior temporal sulcus, a brain area which uses the past to predict the future. According to researcher Dr. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, "It seems that adults might be better at putting themselves in other people's mental shoes and thinking about the emotional impact of actions…The relative difficulty that teenagers have could be down to them using a different strategy when trying to understand someone else's perspective, perhaps because the relevant part of the brain is still developing. The other factor to consider is that adults have had much more social experience…Whatever the reasons, it is clear that teenagers are dealing with, not only massive hormonal shifts, but also substantial neural changes. These changes do not happen gradually and steadily between the ages of 0-18. They come on in great spurts and puberty is one of the most dramatic developmental stages." [“Feelings Matter Less To Teenagers, New Research Suggests,” Medical News Today, 09-09-06, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=51154; Abst Clrnghse, 13Sept06]
Teen Brain Development
Dr. Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, has spent more than 13 years performing MRIs and studying the brains of more than 1,800 kids. Through high-powered MRI technology, he has discovered that the adolescent brain, while fully grown in size, is still a long way from maturity.
Long after the size of the brain is established, it continues to undergo major stages of development. One of the last regions of the brain to mature is the pre-frontal cortex—home of the so-called "executive" functions—planning, setting priorities, organizing thoughts, suppressing impulses and weighing the consequences of one's actions. This means the part of the brain young people need the most to develop good judgment and decision-making develops last!
This "under construction" nature of the adolescent brain helps explain why teenagers act they way they do, and why their behavior can be idealistic, energetic or enthusiastic at one moment, and cynical, lethargic and bored the next. At age 16, their bodies may look fully developed, but the minds are very much still in the development phase.
According to new studies, the pre-frontal cortex usually does not reach a level of genuine maturity until someone reaches their mid-twenties! "It's sort of unfair to expect [teens] to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brains are finished being built," says Giedd.
Knowing the limitations of the adolescent brain does not excuse bad behavior. It does, however, reinforce the need for parents to provide persistent support and guidance. More than ever, adolescents need their parents to be an integral part of their lives. It's not butting in, it's pouring in your love and guidance to protect their future hope, health and happiness.
[ May 2004; Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD, Reviewed by Kate Hendricks, MD, MPH&TM;
Are Your Teens Smoking? Maybe It's Because You Let Them Watch R-rated Movies: Study
CHAPEL HILL, NC, March 5, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – White adolescents with high exposure to R-rated movies and fewer restrictions on their television viewing habits are more likely to start smoking than those with low media exposure, but this association is not seen in black adolescents, according to an article in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Past research has suggested that all U.S. adolescents, regardless of race, have a higher risk of initiating smoking as their exposure to smoking in the media increases.
In 2002, smoking was portrayed in 90 percent of PG- and PG-13-rated movies, and in 100 percent of R-rated movies, according to background information provided by the authors. "About 20 percent of episodes of popular, non-educational prime-time television programs depict tobacco use, and pro-smoking portrayals outnumber anti-smoking portrayals by a ratio of 10 to one," the authors write.
Christine Jackson, Ph.D., from Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Chapel Hill, N.C., and colleagues interviewed 735 12- to 14-year-old adolescents from 14 public middle schools in the southeastern United States. About equal proportions of the students were black and white, male and female, and none smoked at the beginning of the study. In the fall of 2001, the students were asked which of 93 popular films shown in theaters from 2001 to 2002 they had seen, how often they watched television, and whether their parents had rules about the types of television shows they watched. At a follow-up interview in 2004, they were asked about their smoking behavior.
White adolescents with high exposure to R-rated movies were nearly seven times more likely to start smoking compared with those who had low exposure. Even after adjusting for other risk factors such as having a friend who smokes, lack of parental involvement and poor academic performance, those who watched more R-rated movies were still three times more likely to start smoking. White adolescents who had access to unsupervised television viewing were also more likely to start smoking.
[Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:260-268; LifeSiteNews.com, 5March07]