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Teen Doesn't Listen? Blame the Brain!

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Teenagers might have a new excuse for ignoring their parent's orders. Their brains' ability to adopt the viewpoint of others is still budding. Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson explains.

teen arguing with parents

Does your teen have trouble listening to you? There's a scientific reason!

New research suggests that the ability to adopt the viewpoint of others is not fully developed in the teen years.

Known as theory of mind, the ability to infer another's perspective -- emotional, intellectual, or visual -- improves with age. Studies of infants, toddlers and children have documented gradual improvement in this skill with age.

Brain scans suggest that a teenage mind toils harder when inferring the outlook of others, compared with adults. And a brain region implicated in theory of mind, the medial prefrontal cortex, continues to develop through adolescence, says Iroise Dumontheil, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, UK, who led the new study.

This, Dumontheil says, is the first behavioral evidence showing that theory of mind is still improving even through teenage years.

The study's findings may also explain teens' sometimes callous actions.

"What is really new and amazing about this paper, is that they show that adolescents show strong egocentric behaviour that is very similar to that of young children," says Boaz Keysar, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Chicago.

No wonder our teens act like 5-year-olds!!

Momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson says: "This offers some proof of that which we already know: teenagers are egocentric but working on understanding the emotions or perspectives of others. Kids don't just wake up one day and act empathetically -- they have to get there gradually."

Dr. Cara continues: "Neuroscientists studying the development of the teenage brain have documented that the frontal cortex -- the CEO of the brain if you will -- is not fully mature in most teenagers. This may account for why teens do not consistently make consequential decisions (i.e.: if I speed, my car might crash). Perhaps as the frontal lobe is developing, one step in that process is the ability to appreciate someone else's point of view. Makes sense to me."

Us, too.

Moms of teens: Do you think this study makes sense, or it all scientific mumbo jumbo?

next: Phelps: Marijuana Scandal 'Not What My Mom Wanted'
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Blue Valley High School February 5, 2009, 8:41 PM

Hmm Sounds Interesting

wordsRmylife February 6, 2009, 12:12 AM

I love science and fancy statistics but the reality is I hold the gold and once children enter the “teen” years, we should be preparing them for the real world. I have 3 adult teens and 1 16 year old. They know and knew that once they entered the real world they had to compete. That means knowing when to stand for what you believe and knowing when to simply follow instructions. My adult teens are grateful they were well prepared and not coddled every step of the way. Although research and understanding is great, Teens need to understand their future Bosses won’t have time to understand them through stats.

Bhvlofju June 28, 2009, 4:12 AM

q9jBOE comment6 ,

Jennifer October 15, 2009, 4:58 PM

I think there is a new concept behind this. Teens who are rebellious, adventurous or even involved in dangerous activities really have a brain issue as according to new scientific claims that such teens have more evident white matters in their while more scientific experimentation are undergoing to prove what cause teens to do such things. Even the previous generations are not like the new era generation. Also read this interesting post on The Teen’s Brain, ” “, very informative & and a new era of dimensions to think about.

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tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:21 AM

I am glad, that i found your site, there are a couple of cool posts

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