What Goes on Inside a Teenager's Brain?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Neuropsychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel explains how brain development impacts teenagers’ behavior and relationships. He argues that that if parents and teenagers understand the brain better, they can better cope with the moodiness, poor judgment, and impulsiveness that the adolescent brain transformation can bring. Dr. Siegel is the author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.


Daniel J. Siegel

Comments [19]

francynepelchar from pelham bay park

I had 3 or 4 hours of homework in high school; attended and graduated from an ivy league university where each professor assigned work as if his/hers was the only course students were taking. oh yes, i worked part time and graduated in 4 years. discipline should be started early.

Jan. 24 2014 10:53 AM
oscar from ny


Jan. 09 2014 06:16 PM

I'm not surprised that scientists can't tell the difference on scans between men and women; neither can they tell the difference between the brains of the genius and the dollard, artists and scientis, or jugglers and klutzes. I suggest that these brains are different but in a way that isn't visible on a brain scan. I'm not saying that male and female brains are different but only that not being able to tell the difference on brain scans does not seem like proof.

Jan. 09 2014 02:09 PM
Rohan S from Washington Heights

My 16 year old daughter attends a top academic school and is also a talented musician. She has 3 - 5 hours of homework a night and is often sleep deprived. But she now unfortunately also suffers from stress and pressure that is connected to her sense of expectation as a musician and has spiraled into a pattern of avoidance of practice. It's so hard to find a balance between squashing her with pressure to practice and a letting her find her own path. The problem and paradox is that you need practice time and structure to be creative "playful" as a musician. How we negotiate this when stress and fear is so crippling? Can Dr. Siegel give any advice?

Jan. 09 2014 12:51 PM

Is there anything (as a middle-aged adult)one can do to reclaim the benefits of relationships, et al, if one DIDn't have particularly healthy interactions with others when young?

Jan. 09 2014 12:41 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Regarding video games, I don't think the mother should panic too much, and even try her hand to learn to play one with her son. Unless you actually play they, you really don't know what they are about. You can't watch them; you have to play them. Of course, homework and chores come first. Neither TV nor movies or even just "hanging out" should take precedence over basic obligations at school and home. But video game playing is generally positive for eye-hand-brain coordination. And I'm a 67 year old avid video game player. But it certainly can be as addictive as anything else. Keeping it from becoming an addiction is a challenge, as with many other things in life, including drinking, drugs, or overeating.

Jan. 09 2014 12:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I think we need to be careful about making general statements about the meaning of fMRI findings. With many new medical tests of various kinds, the early conclusions tend to be overinterpreted before we get enough info over time & our understanding becomes more refined, especially when it comes to the brain.

Jan. 09 2014 12:40 PM
Ron from Manhattan

Shouldn't girls start school before boys? Seems like they mature and attain learn abilities before boys.

Jan. 09 2014 12:39 PM
db from New York

Is there any brain morphology related to eating disorders in adolescents?

Jan. 09 2014 12:38 PM

RJ fr Greenwich - no reason your husband can't, if properly motivated with reasons in line with his personality and views, become more balanced towards taking on more "adult" responsibilities like paying bills and scheduling trips.

Jan. 09 2014 12:33 PM
Janice from NYC

My 14 year old son would rather play video games (violent "Call of Duty" type) than do anything else... Many parents we speak to say the same thing.
Do you think it's better to exert some rules/limits for an adolescent or just let them play endlessly until hopefully they will "grow out of it"?
My son is ADHD and we are concerned with the effect of these games and how they effect his brain.
This feels like an addiction but it seems very widespread.

Very pertinent conversation, thank you!

Jan. 09 2014 12:32 PM
kathy from westchester

What does Dr. Seigel think of video games? (more violence, gruffness, interactive war and killing?) and pornography? (more extreme images, situations?) should we be talking to our kids about this? and if yes, how? because they don't want to talk to us!

Jan. 09 2014 12:32 PM
Scott Shifrel from Brooklyn

Has anyone studied how emotional trauma effects the adolescent brain neurologically? Also, how does what was once called "recreational" drug and/or alcohol use effects the brain?

Jan. 09 2014 12:30 PM
Lisa from New York

What does Dr. Siegel think of the idea that American teens be required to choose and study a specialty in middle school, the way it is done in the UK, rather than go through a bunch of general education or humanities courses before choosing a major in college?

Jan. 09 2014 12:26 PM
RJ from Greenwich

I LOVE my 42 year old adolescent husband! When he's not working- he builds potato cannons, brews beer, makes maple syrup and made a Flash Gordon costume out of tin foil with our 6 yr old last night. BUT without me- our bills wouldn't get paid and there would be no one to make travel plans or reservations. No adolescent is an island.

Jan. 09 2014 12:25 PM

I believe there's been an out-sized reaction to the persistence and expression of certain forms of immature adolescence by our society's culture-markers prescribing a swing in the other direction - a rush towards a dry, sarcastic, anxiety-ridden, neurosis-riddled adulthood as a marker of maturity. Which then causes the advocates of eternal youth/childhood to pull the pendulum harder in the *other* direction.

Jan. 09 2014 12:25 PM
John A

How can an all-supporting relationship also be used to introduce guidance to what may be an age that is obsessed with destructive things, for example drugs?

Jan. 09 2014 12:19 PM
Maria from Morningside Hts.

Please ask Dr. Siegel to address the 3-4 hours of homework given that is now routine in high school.

Jan. 09 2014 12:19 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

As a psychologist and neuroscientist, I want to point out that biology is both determinative AND determined. How do we know that what is observed in the "adolescent" brain is not a result of the way adolescents are treated? Little in the brain is "programmed."

After all, adolescence itself is a relatively new concept and is constantly being redefined. I suspect that the findings of adolescent brains in the mid-20's is at least in part a result of the extension of adolescence by overly protective and permission parents (in the relatively privileged West). How diverse are these samples? Are they representative of cultures with different definitions of adolescence?

Jan. 09 2014 12:16 PM

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