Loading

Professional Resources

The Teenage Brain

The human brain reaches adult size at about 11 years of age, but it has one of its biggest periods of change and development during adolescence and does not reach full ‘maturity’ until the mid twenties.

Adolescents can be ‘tricky’ to be around at times. Supporting teenagers invariably falls to parents, carers and teachers.

The teenage brain brings great opportunity as well as challenge. During puberty the brain begins its second biggest period of development since infancy. The brain begins ‘pruning’ neurons – unused neurons wither and those used are ‘myelinated’ (coated) allowing for more efficient information processing. This prepares us for the more complex problem solving needed in adulthood.

The brain’s limbic system – that manages emotions is one of the first to mature. The frontal lobes - necessary for ‘executive thinking’ are the last. This explains the impulsive, pleasure seeking, risk taking nature typically seen in teens.

Due to the mismatch in brain growth, psychologist Laurence Steinberg suggested that a teenager's brain “has a well-developed accelerator but only a partly developed brake.” Young people can make ‘sensible’, thought out decisions but are prone to acting on ‘gut feeling’ and making decisions ‘in the moment’.

Peer approval is very important to young people at a time when they struggle to interpret and understand social cues. ‘Fight or flight’ reactions are particularly extreme during adolescence – explaining the tendency to respond very strongly to perceived criticism, stress and relationship difficulties.

Adolescents’ brains are particularly vulnerable to substance misuse – ‘thrill seeking’ is a strong driver and the dopamine hit available from substances meets this need. The adverse effects of using substances are, however, greater in adolescence. For example, if an adolescent smokes, due to the changing brain, more nicotine receptors develop. This makes it harder to stop smoking.

The teenage brain has its perks – the reward centre in the brain is especially receptive at this time and is active when they learn a new task. This makes them more adaptive and efficient than adults. Their changing brain has the capacity to take on large amounts of information. They are highly emotional beings -they feel passionately and can use this positively to raise their concerns about the world, and defend those around them.

Dive Deeper

In School

Help the whole school community understand the challenges and strengths of the teenage brain. This can allow appropriate support for the challenges. As well as making the most of the opportunities of this important period of brain development.

Signposting to information, and giving time for discussion when the opportunity arises, can help young people make sense of their thinking and experiences;

  • Help them understand and learn strategies for emotional regulation, such as mindfulness.
  • Include PSHE on managing peer pressure and relationships.
  • Share factual information on risk-taking behaviours. Give young people space to think about their choices and avoid the impulsive decision making they are predisposed to.

Help parents to understand the changes their child is experiencing too – providing information on the teenage brain.

Solihull Approach

Encourage parents to complete the free online Solihull Training available to them. This will help them to respond sensitively to the needs of their child.

Resources

Shelf Help - Reading Well

  • Blame my Brain - Nicola Morgan.

How Can Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People's Health Services Help?

Log In / Create An Account

Forgot password?

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Was This Page Helpful

Latest from Twitter

☀️ With plenty of sunshine we all need to remember safety first! If a hose has been laying in the sun, the water in… https://t.co/vMKmRS9lYT
NorfolkCYP, 10 August 2022
☀️ With more hot weather on the way, make sure you know how to keep your family safe in the sun! Find out more here… https://t.co/YbhkOpZP6p
NorfolkCYP, 10 August 2022
✔️ VOTE!! ✔️Do you know a young person aged 11-25? Please ask them to vote for their favourite name for the new you… https://t.co/7kAt9bU6xu
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
☀️ There's still spaces on the Big Norfolk Holiday Fun scheme! Find out more and book here: https://t.co/5SNRvaCArq… https://t.co/u6SvbUZHvc
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
You can also search on https://t.co/2HHJNVBx8P for useful health advice for your child/young person! 👨‍💻 https://t.co/Rfw7rWRyW2
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
@SouthNorfolkYAB @BroadlandYAB @YabBreckland @NNYAB7 @NorthNorfolkYAB @YABNwch @YABWestNorfolk @GtYarmouthYAB
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
If your child turns two before 31st August, you may be eligible for 15 hours of funded childcare and education per… https://t.co/Icso83Tkc6
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
RT @ECFSNorfolk: 1 WEEK TO GO! There's still plenty of time to book your free place on our Getting Ready for School online information sess…
NorfolkCYP, 09 August 2022
RT @ccs_nhst: ⭐ Too good not to share! @CambsPboroICS has been shortlisted for an #HSJAwards for the #VaccinatorsOnTour campaign🥳 Proud to…
NorfolkCYP, 08 August 2022
We need young people to vote for their favourite name for the new young person's self-care website! Please share wi… https://t.co/DkiTk6Br6J
NorfolkCYP, 08 August 2022