Health Magazine

The Adolescent Brain

Posted on the 19 June 2011 by Jjankowskirecoverme
THE ADOLESCENT BRAIN
The adolescent brain isn’t fully developed until the early twenties.
Longitudinal studies were performed on children’s brains using MRI, magnetic
resonance imaging technology.  The children’s brains were scanned in 1999.
The brain scans conducted on children during early childhood show the growth
state of the frontal lobe until young adulthood.  The results showed a
significant wave of production of gray matter just before they reached
puberty.  However, a three dimensional picture of the brain showed that gray
matter is discarded from the frontal lobe between adolescence and
adulthood.  Gray matter is the thinking part of the frontal lobe.  This area
rules the executive functions such as reasoning, planning, and impulse
control.  The abuse of alcohol and drugs will affect how an adolescent’s
brain develops during those crucial years leading to adulthood.  According
to the Institute of Highway Safety, adolescents are four times likely as
adults to crash while driving and three times likely to perish.  Due to the
fact that the frontal lobe is not fully developed, adolescents tend to
respond to situations with emotions.  This does not allow them to fully
evaluate the consequences of their actions.  Adolescents seem to struggle
with aggression and impulsivity.  How can we expect our teenagers to show
moral maturity if their brains have not fully developed?  Many children are
exposed to traumatic brain injury by way of physical trauma from severe
beatings, car, bike, motorcycle accidents, or contact sports.  Many endure
sexual abuse that goes unreported that leaves them broken and angry.  Some
are sold for sex so their parents or caretakers can get drugs or money.  How
can these children be expected to behave rationally and get good grades in
school?  How can we ask that of them if they have been exposed to so much
trauma?  How many of these kids do you think are going to suffer from
depression, anxiety, or maybe turn to alcohol and drugs to numb their pain?
According to Dr. Mallet, Public Policy Director at Bellefaire Jewish
Children’s Bureau in Ohio, 2004, a comprehensive study was conducted of
traumatic life experiences of death row juvenile offenders.  His findings
indicated that 74% experienced family dysfunction, 60% were victims of abuse
or neglect, 43% had a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, 38% suffered from
substance abuse addictions, and 38% lived in poverty.  Imagine how many of
these kids were afraid to come forward and talk about their sexual abuse
issues?  How many adolescent rapes go unreported each year due to fear of
retaliation?  I recommend reading about juvenile competency at *
www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/12-3gris.html*.
In order for a juvenile to stand trial, he or she must be capable of
understanding the adversarial nature of the court system.  If your child is
evaluated and found incompetent, the charges are dropped. This article
expresses solely my opinion and does not represent any organization and does
not offer any medical or legal advice.  By Julia Jankowski, M.Ed., Certified
Addiction Professional, Certified Mental Health Professional, Civil
Competency Evaluator

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