Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Understanding Teen Behavior

Adolescent Brain Development

Research shows that the brain goes through dynamic change and development during adolescence and into early adulthood. Alcohol can seriously damage long and short term growth process. The prefrontal area, (behind the forehead) undergoes the most change during adolescence. Adolescent alcohol use can cause severe changes in this area of the brain which may alter the formation of adult personality and behaviors. Immediate reactions to this area of the brain include impairments to impulse control, planning and decision making, and speech.

The hippocampus, an area located deep inside the brain which handles many types of memory and learning, suffers significantly from adolescent alcohol use. Teens who had been drinking longer and more (binge drinking) showed significantly (10%) smaller hippocampus.

American Medical Association’s Drinkers vs. Non-Drinkers: Research Findings

Adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-drinkers on vocabulary, general information, memory, memory retrieval and at least three other tests.

Verbal and nonverbal information recall was most heavily affected, with a 10% performance decrease in alcohol users.

Adolescent drinkers performed worse in school, are more likely to fall behind and have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence.

Alcohol affects the sleep cycle, resulting in impaired learning and memory as well as disrupted release of hormones necessary for growth and maturation.

Alcohol takes a greater toll on brain development of those under 21 than on any other age group. Findings indicate that adults would have to consume twice as many drinks to suffer the same damage as adolescents, and that even occasional heavy drinking injures young brains.

Risk Taking

Adolescents’ involvement in risky behaviors has often been attributed to their thinking of themselves as invulnerable-bad consequences will not happen to them. Studies show that teenagers see occasional or experimental involvement in health-threatening activities as less dangerous than do their parents.


As adolescents develop, drinking behavior becomes more influenced by peers

Studies have shown that youth who have a positive relationship with their parents are less likely to succumb to peer pressure. Glastonbury youth have reported that when parents do not set clear guidelines and expectations regarding behavior it is harder to say no to peers. When peers know that parents have not set rules it is much harder to avoid situations that may lead to unhealthy choices

Adolescent girls are more likely than boys to drink to fit in with their peers

Adolescents often turn to their peers for advice rather than parents or other adults

At this stage, adolescents crave peer acceptance at any cost and will not stand up to challenges from their peers. This often leads to poor decisions

Peer Acceptance

Peer selection rather than peer influence may be the more important factor for initiation of risky behaviors. Peer influence may be more important to maintenance of risky behaviors

Know your child’s peers and try to get to know their parents

Actions vs. Consequences

Teens perceive they must be exposed to a hazard numerous times before experiencing negative consequences

“Now” Oriented: Teens deal only with present, not looking ahead

Teens Don’t Feel Valued at Home, School, and Community

Attention tends to be placed on negative behaviors exhibited rather than the many positive activities and accomplishments by our youth.

Causes of teen stress

- Grades
- College/Perception that Getting Accepted into a Good
School =Lifetime Financial Success
- Sports/Activities/Groups
- Peer Acceptance
- Work

Symptoms of stress in young people include:

- Lack of energy or decreased energy
- Drop in grades
- Changes in appearance or personality
- Crying, moodiness or sulkiness
- Easily frustrated or angered

Untreated stress may lead to Depression/Anxiety

Resources: and www.