National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Hard Wired for Risk: Neurological Science, 'The Adolescent Brain' and Developmental Theory

Bessant, J.
Year Published: 2008
Journal Article
Routledge, c/o Taylor & Francis, Inc.
Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3); 347-360: 2008
Routledge, c/o Taylor & Francis, Inc.

This author considers claims now being made about 'the adolescent brain,' pointing out why some of those claims are problematic for methodological, social and philosophical reasons. She looks at how some 'youth experts' and others have used this research by relying on and reinforcing prejudicial stereotypes about adolescents as intrinsically problematic. One response of those who support the adolescent brain model is to increase the age at which young people can engage in a number of activities. This author argues that if we deny young people responsibility and opportunities to build a repertoire of experiences and to learn how events connect to emotions, we are denying them the chance to develop their capacity for good judgment. The response she proposes in this article rests on the proposition that some young people may be at risk not because their brains are different, but because they have not had the experience or opportunity to develop the skills and judgment that engagement in those activities and experiences supply. Modified Author Abstract.

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