Monika Wiśniewska Polski Counselling Terapia - Polski Psycholog w Berkshire & Online

The Teenager Brain – Unraveling the Mysteries of Behavior and Development

Parents of teenagers often face quite a challenge: their child's unbearable and changeable behavior. These changes are often sudden, impulsive and difficult to predict. It is difficult for parents to accept that communication with a maturing child becomes a challenge, and any attempts to start a conversation often end in misunderstandings. Why is it sometimes so difficult for parents to understand the behavior of their maturing child?

Adolescence is a critical phase marked by profound physical, emotional and cognitive changes. The adolescent brain, undergoing a remarkable transformation, plays a key role in shaping behavior. Understanding the complex relationship between brain development and behavior is important to unraveling the mystery of adolescence.

Brain Development in Teenagers:

The human brain undergoes significant development during adolescence, especially in areas related to impulse control, emotion regulation, and decision-making. Neurological research, such as the work of Steinberg (2008), reveals that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions, undergoes significant change during the teenage years. This development is crucial for higher-order thinking, planning, and assessing consequences later in life.

Effects on Behavior:

The maturation of the prefrontal cortex does not occur uniformly, which leads to an interesting dynamic in which areas associated with emotion and impulsivity, such as the amygdala, develop faster than the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for, among other things, planning actions and consequences. This asynchronous maturation may contribute to heightened emotional reactions and increased risk-taking in adolescents (Casey et al., 2008).

Teens may be impulsive, sensation-seeking, and tend to prioritize short-term rewards over long-term consequences. This can be seen in their decisions regarding learning, social interactions, and risky behaviors such as experimenting with substances or participating in emotion-seeking activities (Steinberg, 2010).

Environmental and Social Impact:

While brain development plays an important role, social and environmental influences also play a key role in shaping adolescent behavior. In particular, the peer group becomes a powerful force during adolescence, influencing decision making and possible risky behaviors (Albert & Steinberg, 2011).

Teenagers are extremely sensitive to social rewards and seek acceptance and recognition among their peers. This desire for social connection can sometimes override rational decision-making processes, leading to behavior that may seem impulsive or risky. Understanding these social dynamics is important for teachers, parents, and caregivers to develop effective interventions and support systems.

Educational Consequences:

Looking at adolescent brain development has important implications for education. Recognizing cognitive variation among adolescents can provide information needed to develop teaching strategies that are tailored to different learning styles. Additionally, developing executive functions through educational interventions can improve decision-making and impulse control skills (Luna et al., 2010).

Role of Parents and Teachers:

Understanding the interrelationship between brain development and behavior enables parents and teachers to provide appropriate guidance and support. Establishing open lines of communication and helping teens develop effective coping mechanisms can contribute to youth's overall well-being.

Don't worry, it will pass... The human brain reaches maturity around the age of 25.

The adolescent brain, during its complex and dynamic transformation, significantly influences the behavior of our children. The asynchronous development of the prefrontal cortex and emotion-related areas contributes to the unique challenges adolescents and their parents face. Recognizing the role of brain development, along with social and environmental factors, is crucial to creating a supportive environment as youth navigate the challenges of adolescence. What can reassure parents is that this is a normal process in everyone's life, and that in most cases the behavior normalizes over time. The better the relationship in the family and the more effective communication, the greater the chances that this important time in the child's life will pass in a way that does not disturb its maturation. 


Casey, B. J., Jones, R. M., & Somerville, L. H. (2008). Braking and acceleration of the adolescent brain. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 18(1), 193-206.

Steinberg, L. (2008). A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk-Taking. Developmental Review, 28(1), 78–106.

Steinberg, L. (2010). The influence of neuroscience on US Supreme Court decisions about adolescents' criminal culpability. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11(3), 185-194.

Albert, D., & Steinberg, L. (2011). Peer Influences on Adolescent Risk Behavior. In B. B. Brown & M. Prinstein (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence (pp. 1903-1911). Academic Press


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