I often come across articles about how an incompletely developed brain accounts for poor self-discipline, irresponsible behavior, and emotional problems of teenagers. It is true that teenagers, by virtue of their hormonal changes, are prone to be emotionally volatile, unpredictable, self-absorbed, and hypersensitive. However, the IMMATURE BRAIN that supposedly causes teen problems is nothing less than a myth. Most of the brain changes that are observed during the teen years lie on a continuum of changes that takes place over much of our lives.
In addition, some of these myths are based on studies of brain activity of teens as compared to adults. But snapshots of brain activities have nothing to do with causation. A person's emotions, such as stress, continuously change brain physiology and development, as does diet, exercise, and studying—virtually all activities, let alone cultural influences. There is clear evidence that any unique feature that may exist in the brains of teens is the RESULT of social influences, rather than the CAUSE of teen turmoil.
The teen brain fits conveniently into a larger myth, namely, that teens are inherently incompetent and irresponsible. But teens in many cultures experience no turmoil whatsoever. I have seen teens act in exemplary ways—as have many adults. Perhaps one reason is that those who are successful think of young people as BECOMING ADULTS BUT ARE JUST YOUNGER. When we treat teens as we treat adults, they almost immediately rise to the challenge.
Throughout most of recorded human history the teen years were a transition to adulthood. Teens were not trying to break away from adults; rather, they were learning to BECOME adults.
To read a short experience of how teenagers—with all their hormonal changes and challenges—can still act responsibly, see parenting.
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