We've recently come across an interesting publication from the National Institute of Mental Health titled The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction. It provides a basic discussion of how the brains of children develop, and notes that the brains of young people don't take on the characteristics of adult brains until the early 20's.
Why is this so important for both parents and teens to understand? Everyone knows that teenagers can be impulsive and don't always exhibit the kind of judgment that will come with adulthood. What this booklet points out is the frightening consequences of this delayed maturity. It cites higher rates of crime and alcohol abuse among teens and notes that deadly injuries are roughly six times higher between ages 15-19 than they are for children between 10 and 14.
The key to the information in this publication is scientists' ability to scan the brain and to look at the structures of the brain at different ages. For example, brain scan studies have shown that parts of the brain that control movement mature early on, but that the areas that control impulses and planning are among the last to mature.
Although written for adults, this booklet is designed to be appealing to adolescents as well. It's a quick read and worth downloading and looking at -- and sharing with your teen and his or her still-developing brain.