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Brain science shows teen annoyance is normal

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My daughter is the best person in the world to roll her eyes. I think most of the things I do annoy himsays Katherine Henderson, a clinical psychologist in Ottawa.

She and other experts say that if it happens in the home, it’s normal and maybe even a sign of a healthy mother-child relationship. The science of adolescent brain development explains this too.

A map of development

A landmark study published last month maps brain development across the lifespan and shows neurodevelopmental milestones during adolescence.

The size of the human brain and its general variation among the population is quite unknown, from a quantitative point of viewmentions Jakob Seidlitz, postdoctoral researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature.

Based on more than 120,000 MRI scans drawn from more than 100 studies and representing more than 100,000 people from before birth to age 100, researchers mapped the development of the human brain across the lifespan.

The study showed that adolescence is a unique time in brain development, just as it is a unique time in physical, social and emotional development. In the same way that a child’s weight, height and head circumference can be mapped through the ages, brain architecture can now be too.

The brain begins to grow in utero, reaches about half its size at birth, and reaches its maximum size in mid-puberty. After that, its size gradually decreases over the rest of life.

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The study of gray matter

As the brain develops, different structures and areas mature at different rates. The study showed that subcortical or deep gray matter, a region with many roles including emotional control, peaks in size in mid-adolescence.

Meanwhile, the amount of gray matter in the brain peaks before that, at the start of school age, and declines in adolescence, while the amount of white matter and the connections between brain cells continue to increase. increase until reaching a peak after 28 years.

These patterns of brain development also help explain how adolescents respond to key adolescent tasks. Teenagers move from more concrete to abstract thinking and learn to solve problems in more complex ways. They separate from their parents and form their own identity.

Teenagers have difficulty modulating their emotionssays Dr. Alene Toulany, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at Toronto Children’s Hospital.

An emotional signal that sounds like a doorbell for an adult, sounds like a gong for a teenager (…) it’s loud and intense. That’s part of why they have such a strong reaction, says Ms. Toulany. They’re not trying to be pissed off. They just are.

What often seems very unpredictable and intense for a parent is actually quite predictable, says Dr. Toulany. I expect conflict between teenagers and their parents.

The fact that parents become less irritating to their children over time is a great description of brain development. »

A quote from Dr. Alene Toulany, pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine

The challenge for parents, says Ms Henderson, is to recognize that behaviors mean the child needs more space to take risks, try new things and develop individuality.

They are not the ones who want to disconnect even though it may seem that way on the surface. It can be harder for parents to stay in that deep unconditional love and listening place, but that’s what teenagers need. »

A quote from Katherine Henderson, clinical psychologist

If children show annoyance towards their parents, it’s usually because they feel safe to express themselves.explains Katherine Henderson.

If parents can hold on through adolescence as the brain develops into their twenties and thirties, their values ​​and behaviors usually look very similar to their parents, although they may not have looked that way as teenagersadds Ms. Henderson.

One of the lessons from the brain mapping study is that for most teenagers, their brains will continue to develop in predictable ways as they move into adulthood.

Ms Henderson’s advice for parents? Hang on (…) and put on noise canceling headphones. A rolled eye is not a sign of disrespect. It shows security in the relationship, to be able to disagreesays Henderson.

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