How the Development of the Teenage Brain Affects Decision Making

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Leah Hardy Kidder English 9 Honors 20 March 2013 A question commonly asked by frustrated parents to their teenagers: why don’t you just grow up and start acting like an adult? Although it is a rhetorical question, there is an answer. Research has shown that the human brain does not reach full development until people are in their 20s. Teenage brains are strikingly unlike adults’, explaining their often rash, immature behavior exemplified in Mary E. Pearson’s novel The Adoration of Jenna Fox and William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. In The Adoration of Jenna Fox, 17 year old Jenna Fox struggles to recover from an 18 month-long coma that left her with complete amnesia. Romeo and Juliet is the classic tale of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, teens from feuding families who meet at a party and fall in forbidden love. Due to their still changing and maturing brains, adolescents make various irrational and poorly though out decisions that may drastically impact their futures. The main parts of the brain which dictate juvenile behavior are the frontal cortex, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens. The frontal cortex is the command center of the brain; it helps determine right from wrong, considers potential consequences, aids in curbing emotions and impulses, and assists in understanding others. The frontal cortex is among the last parts of the brain to connect, meaning that teens are more likely than adults to act on impulse rather than reason and ignore possible outcomes of their actions. Because the frontal cortex remains primarily unconnected to the rest of the brain during the adolescent years, teens rely more heavily on the amygdala. The amygdala is what controls “…the processing of emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure,” (Bailey). This instinctual part of the brain is what causes juveniles to be more prone to aggressive behavior than older people,
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