Brain science shows adolescent annoyance is normal

For many mothers of young children, Mother’s Day is synonymous with homemade cards and kisses. It is less common in the case of teenage mothers who often wonder why their babies seem to be annoyed by their presence.

“My daughter is the best person in the world to roll her eyes. I think most of what I do bothers him, “said Katherine Henderson, a clinical psychologist at Ottawa.

She and other experts say that if this happens at home, it is normal and may even be a sign of a healthy mother-child relationship. The science of adolescent brain development also explains this.

Although it has long been known that a teenager’s brain is wired differently than that of a child or an adult, a groundbreaking study published last month maps brain development throughout life and shows the stages of neurodevelopment during adolescence.

“Its general change in the size of the human brain and its population is quite unknown from a quantitative point of view,” said Jacob Sidlitz, a postdoctoral researcher at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, co-author of the study. Journal Nature.

Based on more than 120,000 MRI scans taken from more than 100 studies and representing more than 100,000 people from birth to 100 years of age, the researchers mapped the development of the human brain throughout life.

Studies have shown that adolescence is a unique time for brain development, just as it is a unique time for physical, social and emotional development. Just as a baby’s weight, height, and head circumference can be mapped by age, so too can brain architecture.

The brain begins to grow in the uterus, reaching about half its size at birth and reaching its maximum size by mid-adolescence. After that, for the rest of life, its size gradually decreases.

As the brain develops, different structures and regions mature at different rates. Studies have shown that subcortical or deep gray matter, a region that has many roles, including emotion control, is highest in size during middle adolescence.

Meanwhile, the amount of gray matter in the brain decreases earlier, in early school age, and during adolescence, when the amount of white matter, or the connection between brain cells, continues to increase. Later increases to the maximum. 28 years.

These patterns of brain development help explain how adolescents respond to major adolescent tasks. Adolescents move from concrete to abstract thinking and learn to solve problems in more complex ways. They separate from their parents and create their own identity.

“Adolescents have a hard time correcting their emotions,” said Dr. Allen Tulani, a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine at a hospital for sick children in Toronto.

A sensitive signal that “looks like a doorbell to an adult, sounds like a gong to a teenager.” […] It is strong and intense. This is why they have a strong response, Mrs. Tulani explained. They are not trying to be upset. They are just. “

“What often seems very unexpected and intense to a parent is actually quite predictable,” Dr. Tulani explains. I hope there is a conflict between teenagers and their parents. “

“The fact that parents become less bored with their children over time is an excellent description of brain development,” he notes.

Ms Henderson said the challenge for parents is recognizing that behavior means risking the child, trying new things and developing more personality.

“They’re not the ones who want to disconnect,” said Mrs. Henderson, although it may seem so on the surface. It may be harder for parents to have that deep unconditional love and listening, but teenagers need it, “she says.

“If children show resentment towards their parents, it’s usually because they feel safe to express themselves,” said Katherine Henderson.

Although parents can hold on to adolescence as the brain develops into their 20s and 30s, their values ​​and behaviors “usually seem very similar to those of their parents, even though they did not show up as teenagers,” Miss Henderson added.

One of the lessons learned from the brain mapping study is that for most adolescents, their brains will continue to develop in predictable ways as they get older.

Mrs. Henderson’s advice for parents? “Wait […] And fit soundproofing headphones. A rolled eye is not a sign of disrespect. It shows a security in the relationship, to be able to disagree, “Henderson said.

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