George Lucas Educational Foundation

Developmental Psychologist Says Teenagers Are Different (NYTimes)

Developmental Psychologist Says Teenagers Are Different (NYTimes)

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Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, is one of the leading experts in the United States on adolescent behavior and adolescent brain biology. Dr. Steinberg, 57, has won the $1 million Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize, which will be awarded to him at a ceremony in early December in Switzerland. Here is an edited version of two conversations with Dr. Steinberg last month: Q. YOU HEAR PARENTS SOMETIMES SAY, “I’M LIVING WITH AN INSANE PERSON. MY CHILD IS A TEENAGER.” ARE THEY BEING HYPERBOLIC? A. I’m not one of those people who labels adolescence as some sort of mental illness. Teenagers are not crazy. They’re different.

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

Tweens and teens are, in fact, an entirely different component of our species. To treat them like young adults or older children is to do them a real injustice in reaching out to their unique needs. Check out the mini-series from TLC called "Teen Species." It's fantastic!

Did you know what, if left to their own devices, their sleeping patterns would really look like?

Did you know that the consistency of their sweat is totally different then that of children and adults?

Weird info and really enlightening!

-Heather WG

Krista's picture
8th grade lit/comp and history teacher from Illinois, near St. Louis, MO

It is great to have so much brain research becoming available to support the behaviors being witnessed. I've copied a section of the article below....


A. In the last five years, as neuroscience has moved forward with functional magnetic resonance imaging and with research on animals, there have been dozens of new studies of adolescent brain development. These show that the brain systems providing for impulse control are still maturing during adolescence. Neuroscientists have shown that the part of the brain that improves most during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complicated decision-making, thinking ahead, planning, comparing risks and rewards. And the neuroscientific research is showing that over the course of adolescence and into the 20s, there is this continued maturation of this part of the brain. So now, we have brain evidence that supports behavioral studies.

As a teacher I think it makes complete sense that adolescents are working with a still-developing brain and therefore have problems with thinking ahead, planning, making decisions, and comparing rewards and consequences! Now we have the brain research to prove what we, middle school teachers, have always known!

Thanks for sharing this article. I'll be passing it along to my colleagues.


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