Were you a teenage tearaway? Well, it’s well known that teenagers often engage in risky behaviour, but a group of psychologists at Temple University in the USA have suggested that this risk taking behaviour is due to the way the teenage brain is developing.
The researchers have been looking at previous studies into teenage brains over the last decade and have come up with a reason why adolescents tend to show risky behaviour. They believe it is due to two different networks developing in the brain at different speeds. One is the socio-emotional system that starts developing during puberty and processes social and emotional into. This allows teenagers to experience more intense emotions and be more susceptible to peer pressure. The second is the cognitive control system that regulates behaviour and helps people to make mature decisions. But this second one only starts to develop later in puberty and into the early twenties. So out of the two conflicting systems the one that makes teenagers more risky develops first. The researchers say this could explain why teenagers may be more likely to take risks under influence of peer pressure, and that increasing the age for buying cigarettes and alcohol may help to make it harder for teenagers to engage in reckless behaviour before their ‘sensible system’ kicks in.