Adolescent Development

By Tiffani Riley

Characteristics of a Teenager

-Risk Taking Behavior

-Use it or Lose it


-Dumb Decision


Risk Taking Bahavior

There has been a study on teenagers and how they react when it comes to making risky choices and how they are compared to adults. One example of a situation scientists have used to study their behavior was watching their decision as both decided to run a yellow light or slow down and stop. Both have made safer choices while playing alone, but when they are told to make the decisions when they are in front of their peers, the teenager started to make riskier choices, meanwhile the adult, older than 20 years old, doesn't make much changes in their behavior. It shoes that age differences in decisions making and judgement may appear under conditions that are emotionally arousing or have high social impact. It is thought that peer pressure caused teenagers' attraction to novelty and their roaring interest in loosening sexual inhibitions. But researchers have also raised the possibility hat rapid changes in dopamine-rich areas of the brain may be an additional factor in making teens vulnerable to the stimulating and addictive effects to drugs and alcohol. Dopamine, the brain chemical involved in motivation and in reinforcing behavior, is particularly abundant and active in teen years. But for the nucleus accumbens, a region in the frontal cortex that directs motivation to seek onwards, it was found that teenagers have less activity in this region than adults do. It is said that "if adolescents have a motivational deficit, it may mean that there re prone to engaging in behaviors that have either a really high excitement factor or a really low effort factor, or a combination of both" This effects the risk taking behavior because it causes teenagers to not give too much effort in deciding what would be the right thing to do.

Use it or Lose it

Use it or lose it is a term that describes what process your brain is going through when trying to decide if the information you are receiving is important or not. The skills you practice as a child and pre-teen become much sharper in the teenage years; and those practiced reluctantly, if at all, will diminish on your brain's hard-disk drive.


Hormones are an important part to the teen brain story. At puberty, the ovaries and testes begin to pour estrogen and testosterone into the bloodstream, spurring the development of the reproductive system, causing hair to sprout in the armpits and groin, wreaking havoc with the skin, and the shaping the body to its adult contours. Testosterone-like hormones released by the adrenal glands begin to circulate. The sex hormones are especially active in the brain's emotional center--the limbic system. But adolescents are actively looking for experiences to create intense feelings. It's a very important hint that there is some particular hormone-brain relationship contributing to the appetite for thrills, strong sensations and excitement. These parts of the brain that are responsible for things like sensation seeking are getting turned on in big ways around the time of puberty, causing a teenagers hormones to go wild.

Dumb Decisions

A teenagers behavior is changing because the brain is changing. When making decisions, kids and young adolescents rely heavily on the amygdala, a structure in the temporal lobes associated with emotional and gut reactions. Adults rely less on the amygdala and more on the frontal lobe, a region associated with planning and judgement. This is the reason why teenagers and adults interpret facial expressions different, an adult might see an angry facial expression as angry while a teenager might see it as shocked, confused, or angry.


To go to bed and get up at a reasonable schedule is kind of a decision making that has less to do with the frontal lobe than with the pineal gland at the base of the brain. As nighttime approaches and daylight recedes, the pineal gland produces melatonin, a chemical that signals the body to begin shutting down for sleep. It takes longer for melatonin levels to rise in a teenagers body than in a younger kids or adults, regardless of exposure to light or stimulating activities.

My Adolescent Development

Being a teenager, I have experienced making changes in my behavior. With my hormones, I've noticed that I've become more sensitive; typically, when it comes to me becoming angry or sad. This tends to tie into my dumb decisions, where I would make a decision I would regret; for example saying something that I didn't mean to or getting so upset that I would give up on a friendship. But not only is it hard to control my hormones, it's also difficult to keep a regular sleep schedule. During the school year, it is hard to get a healthy amount of sleep because my melatonin level does not rise in time to go to bed at a decent hour. With all of these examples, I believe that adolescent development is accurate and is fitting to my personal life.

My Advice

The advice I would give to parents, is to try to recall the emotional turmoil they went through as a teenager and to attempt to be rational and understanding when it comes to handling situations with their teenagers. My advice for teenagers is to keep calm and to stop and think before acting on impulse, while understanding that not everything is as big of a deal as it seems to be in the moment.