Why oh why do teenagers make the decisions they make?

Even though we were all teenagers once, it seems that the impulsive, thrill-seeking behaviors of some teens remains a mystery to most adults.  I can't tell you the number of times my friends with teen-aged kids have rhetorically asked, "What were they thinking?" when attempting to describe their teen's latest escapades.

More often than not, adults tend to discount the teenage brain altogether, assuming that the teens aren't thinking when they make certain choices.  But new research shows that teens' over-stimulated brains might think too much at times.  Particularly when they are exposed to new experiences and rewards.

In this TEDx Youth talk, Dr. Adriana Galván, the Director and Principal Investigator of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology and Brain Research Institute at the University of California, explains her research on characteristic teenage behavior, such as risk-taking, exploration and thrill-seeking.

What she found was that the teenage brain gets really excited about rewards, emotions, and new experiences and that it isn't until adulthood that our brains learn how to regulate our responses to this brain excitement.  So it's not that teens aren't thinking, it's that they don't have the maturity and life experience necessay to even out their over-stimulated thoughts.

According to Galván, "this sensitivity in the brain to rewards and to emotions might lead teenagers to make poor choices some times, but it also presents an excellent opportunity to seek out new adventures, to meet new people, and to confront interesting challenges in ways that people don't typically do later in life."

So Galván's advice to teenagers (and their parents)?  Savor the excitability of the teenage brain.  Watch Galván explain her theory in TEDx Youth talk below:

Any parents of teenagers care to weigh-in?

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