A group of teenagers hanging out. George Rudy/Shutterstock.com
A deficit in the development of the teenage brain has been blamed for teens’ behavior in recent years, but it may be time to lay the stereotype of the wild teenage brain to rest. Brain deficits don’t make teens do risky things; lack of experience and a drive to explore the world are the real factors.
As director of research at a public policy center that studies adolescent risk-taking, I study teenage brains and teenage behavior. Recently, my colleagues and I reviewed years of scientific literature about adolescent brain development and risky behavior.
We found that much of the risk behavior attributed to adolescents is not the result of an out-of-control brain. As it turns out, the evidence supports an alternative interpretation: Risky behavior is a normal part of development and reflects a biologically driven need for exploration – a process aimed at acquiring experience and preparing teens for the complex decisions they will need to make as adults.