The teenage years are like a second birth for most people. During puberty, adolescents go through another infant-like growth spurt, with a large amount of that growth taking place in the brain. (Paus et al., 1999) This explosion of new neurons and new growth often leaves the teenage brain paralyzed by inefficiency. They become a little neurotic, highly prone to mood swings, and all of this new growth in the frontal lobe means that a teen’s reasoning areas often go a little haywire. Henceforth comes the many dubious things that teenagers often do.
Research has shown that the adolescent brain is more sensitive to rewards and gratification, so they end up seeking higher levels of novelty and stimulation. As Eric Jensen (2006, p. 102) states, “risks, rewards, and fun are driving their brains.” This makes teenagers more prone to act recklessly in the name of achieving a thrill, and it also makes them especially vulnerable to the pitfalls of addiction.
Adolescents are also built to start pulling away from their parents. This is more than increased peer pressure. A teen’s brain is designed to make a switch from parents to peers as their primary concern for acceptance. Remember, all the fuss about teen sex and pregnancy are our own social creations. As far as nature is concerned, this is the age in which she designed our youngsters to go out and mate and have offspring of their own. This switch in attachment from parent to peers
This doesn’t mean that parents become irrelevant. Far from it. Parents can continue to play an important role in the lives of their children during adolescence and decades beyond. But their role changes, from one of authority to one of support. Parents who accept and adapt to this new role will be able to guide their children and continue to be an important influence. Those who fight it will run into all sorts of difficulties and will likely push their child farther away.