Impulsive Behaviors in Teenagers Could be Exploration. Image Source: Curiosity

Impulsive Behaviors in Teenagers Could be Exploration

Teenagers, they are notorious for making bad decisions. Whether it’s chatting with strangers online, deciding to experiment with drugs, piercing ears, skateboarding; they always seem to illustrate the sets of impulsive behaviors.

Scientists have long said teens are impulsive because their brains aren’t fully developed. But that can’t be the explanation. Instead, the recklessness of adolescence may just be a result of teens trying things for the first time.

A review published in the journal, Development Cognitive Neuroscience, explained that underdeveloped brain is responsible for reckless and impulsive behaviors in the teenagers. The common belief is that adolescents don’t have a matured prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain associated with complex decision making and realization of potential consequences—and thus they lack the capability to fully think through their actions.

But the researchers in the same study went against that notion. They believe that impulsive behaviors in teens are just misjudged exploratory behaviors.

The lead author Daniel Romer, Ph.D., research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, explains their theory:

“The reason teens are doing all of this exploring and novelty seeking is to build experience so that they can do a better job in making the difficult and risky decisions in later life —decisions like ‘Should I take this job?’ or ‘Should I marry this person?’ There’s no doubt that this period of development is a challenge for parents, but that doesn’t mean that the adolescent brain is somehow deficient or lacking in control.”

Different thinking of teenagers. Image Source: KQED

Different thinking of teenagers. Image Source: KQED

Romer says that the majority of teens get through this hard developmental time without an STD, substance issue, or mental health issue. He says that truly problematic impulsive behaviors in teens have usually been shown before adolescence and for these individuals, the risk of developing these other issues is higher.

Understanding how teens’ brains work and why they act the way that they do can help professionals intervene earlier and develop better treatments. More research has to be conducted to really uncover the link between brain development, curiosity, and teen behavior.

Researchers think that teens are just trying to gain experience and are acting out of curiosity. They don’t have the experiences and understanding of certain consequences that adults do. Adults know that there are potentially serious threats to meeting up with people only talked to through the internet–but adolescents don’t have enough experience to fully understand this danger.

Such impulsive behaviors shouldn’t define them. Teens have a lot of capacity to change. Pressurizing to change them is not a good idea. Gradually teens start to understand having impulsive behaviors may not be good.

Do you think impulsive behaviors in teenagers is due to their interest in learning new things? Let us know in the comments below.


Reference: Equinox