We can all remember that awkward, difficult time as adolescents where the picture didn’t ever really fit, rebellious was more than just a word and parents looked and sounded ancient. However adolescence is one of the most important life stages in the development of a human being. Scientists have assumed until recently that by the time adolescence arrives the brain is fully grown. Though more recent studies using MRI technology have found that actually the brain carries on growing in the 20′s, with reasoning skills developing last. This places a new light on adolescent behavior and the way is has been treated by frustrated parents. I quote from the study :
“What’s happening during adolescence that turns many once-sweet kids into unruly rabble-rousers? At least part of the reason may be that adolescent brains process information differently than adult brains, according to research led by neuropsychologist Deborah Todd-Yurgelun, PhD, of Harvard University’s McLean Hospital Cognitive Neuroimaging and Neuropsychology Laboratory. She and her team are using neuroimaging to investigate the neural underpinnings of the emotional turmoil many teens experience. And those imaging technologies are revealing brain differences that could explain teen traits that exasperate adults, including impulsivity, poor judgment and social anxiety.
Rebellious teen behavior could stem more from biology than stubbornness, says Yurgelun-Todd.
“Don’t assume that because you’ve laid out the argument or presented the idea that teenagers are interpreting it in the same way you’ve presented it,” she advises. “The frontal cortex is continuing to develop, and if you don’t have the neural structure in place, the adolescent cannot really think things through at the same level as an adult.”
Despite the scientific research, this can be a confusing time for kids. M Scott Peck, in his bestseller, The Road Less Travelled, describes the time known as adolescence as a time of experiment and impulsiveness, punctuated by a lack of respect and discipline. This just about sums up what going through this important life stage is all about. From puberty to adulthood, various changes take place that will shape life to come and have a major bearing on everything that happens afterwards. We can all remember being that awkward half-child, half-adult nervously taking those shy, tentative first steps into adulthood. Some may look back on this time fondly, wondering about the newly-found independence and freedom from parental influence. Others will only remember the problems that inevitably brings. What is it about this magical, mixed-up period of our lives that has such a bearing on us?
The main feature of adolescence is the psychological search for a personal identity and a move away from family influence. This causes many major problems that can lead to confusion over sexual orientation, inappropriate behaviour, drug abuse or social isolation. Among the many changes taking place at this time, adolescents must face essential physical and mental changes as well. Biologically, there are major changes taking place in a physical, sexual and emotional way. Adolescents also become increasingly aware cognitively as well. The method of processing information and thinking critically starts to take shape. Additionally, there is increasing social pressure from peers, society in general and especially from parents and authority figures. By overcoming these obstacles. a balanced adult will emerge.
Even in a ‘normal’ family, adolescence is as hard on parents as it is on the adolescent. There may, for the first time, be a sense of rebellion and challenge in the relationship and most parents find it hard to ‘be there’ even though, it is more important at this stage to offer guidance than ever. Additionally, early life experiences within the family can have a major bearing on how difficult adolescence can be. Children who feel securely attached to their parents are generally better equipped to cope but even then it is a case of both parents and child learning the new skills needed. Children who have been the victims of neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse are usually at risk of adolescence becoming a time of major difficulty and many go on to become adults who repeat their own parent’s behaviour. Children who are left traumatised by violence or witnessing terrorist acts or natural disasters also carry this trauma forward. It must be noted that even though early experiences are an indicator for problems in adolescence, counsellors must also take into account genetic predisposition’s which can also be a factor.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. For more information , follow the link to his website HERE