push-back on adolescent brain development and extended adolescence

sometime last year, the managing editor of immerse journal emailed and asked if i would write a feature article on adolescent brain development and the plethora of new findings that have poured out in the last ten to fifteen years. i agreed, and found out it was slated for may of 2011. so i didn’t think about it for another half year. finally, i wrote the piece (which is now online): this is your brain on adolescence. but by the time i got around to writing it, i didn’t feel i could merely write a summary of adolescent brain development. i felt an obligation to push back — because i’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the assumptions and conclusions coming out (both at a professional and popular level), referencing teenage and young adult brains.

here’s a snippet from the article:

I have a problem with the assumption that has quickly become accepted truth about teenage brains: that teenage brains are underdeveloped in a couple of critical areas and that teenagers are, therefore, biologically inferior and less than capable. So it might be helpful to step back a few years and fill you in on the nexus and my journey of trying to understand scientific findings about teenage brain development and the implications for youth ministry.

here’s another bit, after i provide an overview of “findings” from the last decade:

…we are quickly moving to calcify extended adolescence and remove more and more of the on ramps to the adult world that teenagers and young adults need.

My two cents: I’m interested in pushing back. While I have no interest in living with my head in the sand, I want to see teenagers live into their capabilities, and I want to see young adults move into adulthood.

one of the things i like about immerse journal is that the often provide a follow-up piece, reflecting on an article, but written by a different author. i was pleased last week to see paul sheneman’s response to my article: “going deeper with mark oestreicher’s: this is your brain on adolescence“. paul does a nice job of summarizing some of what i wrote and providing some additional thoughts. a nice “sidebar”, in a sense.

anyhow, i’m glad the article and “going deeper” bit are both online now, so i can point to them. happy reading. and let me know what you think…

3 thoughts on “push-back on adolescent brain development and extended adolescence”

  1. I’m absolutely fascinated by this topic and would love a brief list of resources on some of this research – both academic and layperson reads.

  2. michele — start with “the primal teen”, but realize it’s assumes a ‘nature’ perspective (that teen brains have always been this way and there’s nothing we can do about it).

    then read “teen 2.0”, which is about more than teen brains, but offers a totally different perspective.

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