Conflict and Brain Development

As we have looked at the subject of Conflict, we have noted that teenagers are still learning. This is a strange concept to some parents as we feel we have been teaching them our values and expectations forever! However we need to remind ourselves that in the teenager years, our child’s mind is changing and challenging those clearly taught principles.


You may wish to read this very interesting article from for more on this

Here are s few important points which might give us a better understanding.

some parts of the brain — such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that sits right behind the eyes — do not appear fully mature until 24 years old! Other parts of the brain, like the walnut-shaped amygdala (AMG) that sits deep in the brain, appear to be fully mature much earlier. Many neuroscientists think that this mismatch in brain maturity may explain a lot of adolescent behavior.”

“While adolescents might tend to be more moody and impulsive — and we now have some reason to believe that this might be reflecting a ‘normal’ part of brain development — our job as parents is to get them to slow down and help them think through what they are doing,” he says.

But not everything can be blamed (or should be blamed) on brain development. “It is important to note that the PFC is still functioning in adolescence. But, because it isn’t completely mature, it simply isn’t working as fast as it will when it matures,” he says.

That difference can have tragic consequences, Dr. Garner explains.

“If you ask a teenager whether it is a good idea to get into a car with friends who are drunk, most would say ‘no way.’ That’s the PFC talking. In calmer moments, the relatively slow PFC is able to think abstractly and see the potentially dire consequences of driving when drunk. But, in the heat of the moment, the relatively more developed AMG screams ‘just do it’ before the PFC knows what happened. The same process might pay a role in teen violence, substance abuse, and even suicide.”

So by understanding the differences that happen in a developing brain, I hope you might see the importance of helping your teen slow down and think things through properly. We cannot be there for them in every circumstance, neither can we prevent them from making rash decisions. We can however understand why they made that rash decision we were angry about and forgive them. Many parents have sadly been overcome by the consequences of a child’s poor decision making but knowledge of this part of a teens brain functions may help to move forward in hope.

When we are dealing with conflict in our homes, it may very well serve us best to remember that quick fire conversations will prompt a teens AMG into a rapid emotional response ( anger, rejection, rebellion, fear etc ) whereas giving them time to use their PFC will promote a more thought out and rational answer.

It is important here to remember that human brains are not fully developed until the age of 25!




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