A friend of mine is the mother of four, grandmother of three, and jokingly told me that if she had one wish it was to put children entering puberty into a machine, in suspended animation, until they were mature - all the while feeding them a nutritious diet, giving them therapeutic exercise so their muscles don’t atrophy, and feeding them education through headphones.

Now, I realize she was kidding, but I’m certain there are many parents who would vote for this if they were offered the chance.

To most adults, young people seem crazy and reckless. They are temperamental, aggressive, and argumentative. They act first and think later. Most parents feel puberty is the hardest part of raising a child.

Studies show this behavior is actually not their fault. It is due to an under-developed brain, and adolescents process information differently from adults. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagery) scans given to volunteer adolescents have shown that the brain continues to mature and develop throughout childhood and teens, and on into early adulthood.

Researchers have localized the amygdale, deep within the temporal lobes, as the part of the brain responsible for instinctual reactions. This area develops early. A mature adult processes their information through the frontal cortex of the brain. This area develops much later.

Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have found that our brains experience a rapid burst of synapse (connections) from birth until around 18 months. It experiences another wave of connectivity at puberty, and still another throughout the teen years. These changes are important for the development of coordinated thought, action and behavior.

The researchers scanned the brains of 13 healthy children, using an intricate MRI system and anatomical landmarks. The study took place over a period of ten years, undergoing re-examination every two years as they grew up. The ebb and flow of neurons and connections in the brain were followed, and a movie was made showing brain maturation from the ages of five to 20. What I discovered was that a "higher-order" portion of the brain center, such as the prefrontal cortex, does not fully develop until young adulthood.

Neuroscientists have found that the extreme front and back areas of the brain are the first to mature. These areas process movement and your senses. The parietal lobes, responsible for spatial orientation and langue, are next. The last portion of the brain to develop is the “high-functioning” area - the prefrontal cortex, which processes reasoning.

By contrast, autistic children show an abnormal back-to-front wave of gray matter during development which increases, rather than decreases, suggesting "a specific faulty step in early development." Their research also indicated that normal brain development during adolescence can change significantly if the child is subject to fetal alcohol syndrome, head trauma, and exposure to drugs (including marijuana and tobacco).

Young people are capable of making good decisions, and know the difference between right and wrong, so they can be held accountable for their own behavior. This study does not excuse recklessness, but it does explain it.

Author's Bio: 

Ron White is a two-time USA Memory Champion, memory expert, and memory speaker. He speaks at seminars and to large groups all over the world on how to improve memory and memory techniques. Click to check out his memory improvement products.