Teen Brain: Adult Reasoning Capacity, Emotional Maturity Not So Much
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2009 Oct 14
you have or have had teens at home or work with them, there is
absolutely no surprise in this new study's finding that their emotional
maturity development lags behind their reasoning capacity.
a physiological standpoint, this study seeks to provide more
understanding into the developing teen brain. From a practical
standpoint, quite simply teens are "rookie" adults. They need time,
guidance, and experiences to help them move toward maturity. It's worthwhile to note that teens are prone to experimentation and making some poor choices along the way.
Parents can mitigate some of the negative consequences by equipping teens with decision making skills including helping them learn to evaluate outcomes of different choices, and by providing loving support, appropriate discipline, along with lots of patience and grace.
A 16-year-old might be quite capable of making an informed decision about whether to end a pregnancy - a decision likely to be made after due consideration and consultation with an adult - but this same adolescent may not possess the maturity to be held to adult levels of responsibility if she commits a violent crime, according to new research into adolescent psychological development.
"Adolescents likely possess the necessary intellectual skills to make informed choices about terminating a pregnancy but may lack the social and emotional maturity to control impulses, resist peer pressure and fully appreciate the riskiness of dangerous decisions," said Laurence Steinberg, PhD, a professor of developmental psychology at Temple University and lead author of the study. "This immaturity mitigates their criminal responsibility."
Steinberg and his co-authors address this seeming contradiction in a study showing that cognitive and emotional abilities mature at different rates.
The findings appear in the October issue of American Psychologist, published by the American Psychological Association.