Ways in Which Teen Brains Are Different

As parents, it can be frustrating to try and understand the impulsiveness and irrational behavior of teenagers. It seems that adolescents just act without thinking or don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. There is actually a biological explanation for this.

Brains continue to grow and develop throughout childhood and even into adulthood. Because of this, children and adults differ in the ways they act, problem-solve, and make decisions. Here are 5 ways that teen brains are different than adults.

1. Differing Priorities

Our brain stops fully developing in our twenties — the prefrontal cortex being one of the last places to mature. This area is responsible for decision-making, planning, and prioritizing. Teens tend to focus more on building relationships and social experiences.

They prioritize friends, and with the prefrontal cortex still developing, teens are more likely to take risks due to the social benefits rather than think about consequences. They cannot always understand their reasonings behind behaviors or actions.

2. Ready to Learn

Because of the continuous development, teen’s brains are able to adapt and learn about new experiences. They can also gain skills easier and balance multiple tasks at once. It is important for teens to find stimulation in order to release stress and improve their cognitive abilities.

Enforcing education, such as encouraging teens to take challenging classes, helps promote brain maturity. Creative activities that involve art or music also strengthen brain circuits and aid with healthy development. The adolescent brain can actually change and adapt better than the adult brain.

3. Stress Response

Stress is challenging to manage for anyone, but teens tend to respond differently than adults. One reason is that their emotional regulation is not as strong, therefore making it more difficult for them to utilize skills to calm themselves down. They are also more likely to perceive stress as dangerous and act out in response.

Teenagers can be more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, aggression, physical illness, or social isolation if they do not learn effective management or coping skills.

4. Susceptible to Mental Illness

Due to the stresses of the adolescent period, it is common for teens to struggle with their mental health. The more risk factors teenagers are exposed to, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with a mental disorder. These factors may include:

  • Pressure to conform
  • Bullying or discrimination
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Exposure to violence
  • Lack of support
  • Family history

5. Resilient

Despite the many challenges adolescents face, they are more likely to bounce back and live relatively normal lives. Experiences and changes in the brain during this period may contribute to resilience and an improved mental health into adulthood. Teenagers also have more brain cells than adults; they are quicker, meaning they can bounce back easier from impactful situations.

Adolescents have the ability to live in the moment, which us adults may want to try more. While this can be a pro and a con, teens can use this to include more joy in their daily lives. Living in the moment allows them to discover their passions, identities, and goals. They take life day by day, challenge their thinking processes, and explore career options.

Understanding the teen brain proves to be challenging, but imagine trying to deal with the development. At one point in time, we were all adolescents going through our own brain changes. This time period can be difficult, and if you notice your teen struggling with their mental health, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

Counselors can guide teens to understand their development while helping them learn effective skills for emotional regulation, stress management, and communication. Reach out and schedule their first session today!