Think your kids are ignoring your constant warnings about the risks of their behavior? Turns out, they may not just be ignoring you. Their brains may not be even be equipped to process what you are saying.
According to a new study, conducted by researchers at University College London, young people simply don't recall information about risks - particularly if a certain type of behavior is riskier than they might have guessed.
For the study, researchers asked 59 young people, aged 9 to 26, to guess the odds that a negative thing might happen to them. Events such as breaking a bone, getting lice, or even being the victim of a burglary. The list of 40 unfortunate events ranged in seriousness from suffering a major injury in a car accident to getting trapped in an elevator. After they made their guesses, participants were told the actual odds of each event happening. Then they were asked to assess the risks again. Turns out that the younger the participant, the worse they were at remembering the risks - especially if the risks were actually worse than they had initially guessed.
The issue isn't one of remembering. Researchers tested each participant's memory and that wasn't the problem. The kids could remember everything else just fine. But they seemed to blank when it came to understanding the real risks of certain behaviors.
This study lends credence to additional research on the development of a young person's brain. The field of neuroscience has shown that while good news is processed in many areas of the brain, the understanding of negative information is centered in the prefrontal cortex - a part of the brain that is one of the last to mature.
We parents think that our kids simply ignore the warnings we give them about texting and driving or wearing a helmet while riding a bike. But in actuality, it may simply be that kids simply can't understand these risks.
All the more reason to nag, and nag, and nag some more.
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