Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers #73 – The Teenage Brain is a Funny Thing

When God created man, He made the human body and its internal systems incredibly complex. The more doctors and scientists study the brain, the more amazing connections (synapses) and development details they find. Here is an excerpt from an article on the teenage brain and how it differs from adults. In the past, it was believed the brain was fully developed by 8-12 years, but now it appears that it isn’t fully formed until the age of 24-25.


Teenagers experience a wealth of growth in synapses during adolescence. The brain starts pruning away the synapses that it doesn’t need in order to make the remaining ones much more efficient in communicating. In teenagers, it seems that this process starts in the back of the brain and moves forward, so that the prefrontal cortex, that vital center of control, is the last to be trimmed. As such, the prefrontal cortex is a little immature in teenagers as compared to adults; it may not fully develop until your mid-20s [source: Kotulak] An area of the teenager’s brain that is fairly well-developed early on, though, is the nucleus accumbens, or the area of the brain that seeks pleasure and reward. In imaging studies that compared brain activity when the subject received a small, medium or large reward, teenagers exhibited exaggerated responses to medium and large rewards compared to children and adults [source: Powell]. When presented with a small reward, the teenagers’ brains hardly fired at all in comparison to adults and children.


These are not excuses for bad behavior, but possibly a glimpse into why our teens just don’t see things the way parents do. The development of skills like planning, organizing, prioritizing, judging consequences, and self-control are all still to come. Show grace and help your teenager learn to walk through their decisions rather than blasting them for what we interpret as simply not thinking.

“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.”
Psalm 129:14 (ESV)


I’m praying with you and for you. Please let me know how I can serve you and your family.


in Christ,

Pastor Mark