Your Adolescence Is Everything

by Liz Colville

Is this surprising? No, but adolescence is being found to dictate a lot of what happens to us when we’re adults, according to new research and old common sense. Our teenhood is “a period of crucial brain development subject to a host of environmental and genetic factors,” says Newsweek, and what we do to our brains can also have a big impact later, partly because of how malleable our brains are as teens, and how much more strongly we react to things as teens than as children. The scientists are finding not only that teenagers are weirdos because things are changing so quickly for them, but that this chapter “can affect who we become as adults, how we handle stress, and the way we bond with others.”

At a Society for Neuroscience meeting in November, scientists declared that the adolescent brain is really only about 80 percent developed, far less than generally thought; lots of serious things happen in the latter half of college times and the beginning of adult life. “It takes until the mid-20s, and possibly later, for a brain to become fully developed.” How about “possibly later.” As an adolescent, crucial functions are not quite ready, particularly “the parts responsible for helping to check our impulses and considering the long-term repercussions of our actions,” which is why we are rude to our parents and our fellow men.

How this impacts us later has a lot to do with what types of relationships we have during adolescence, as well as what we feed our brains as teenagers, e.g., how much alcohol and weed. The scientists also say that teens in the “middle and upper range of social status” can have a tougher time than those in the lower range and those at the very top. Those that deal with being picked on can also end up being the strongest. Cue Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” or something. And! Some degree of “dabbling with delinquency” is actually encouraged by the scientists, because, they say, most people outgrow it. By their mid-20s or possibly later.