The Adolescent Brain: Challenges for Family Life

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 12
Words: 3579
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13 min
Study level: PhD


The term policy is used to refer to a decree or regulation that touches on several aspects of a region concerning the economic social or geographic nature of the area. The main idea for implementing policies meant to curb adolescent problems is that there are some that have already been put in place by the relevant authorities, and they have proven to be quite effective in achieving their target. They aim to reduce the incentives that aggravate the situation by encouraging adolescents to engage in unruly and unbecoming behavior (Walsh 2007 p. 87). The policies are put in place by the authorities to alter the societal environment for problematic behavior and are essential in the prevention of these issues. This white paper discusses how to embrace the needs of adolescents by assisting them to understand the stage they are undergoing, in order to make them better people in the future. It also aims to address the functions and responsibilities of family society and associated agencies and their importance in molding young people. The white paper proffers actions that may remedy the tense situation faced by both parents and adolescents.

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The adolescent stage is one of the most challenging stages for everyone in the cycle of life. This paper proposes that society gets to understand more about how the adolescent brain works in order for them to be less misinterpreted. Plenty of research has been carried out in various institutions, on ways that can be adopted to address the issue of rising and ever-increasing challenges that are faced by families and society. Parents should not look up to the agencies fully to cater for these issues (Wen 2008 p. 1508). They ought to work with the agencies in a bid to solve problems that are associated with adolescent behavior.

As opposed to puberty, the processes involved in puberty are all targeted to emotional as well as mental adulthood, which is not visible since it occurs inside the brain matter. There is quite a lot of detailed transformation that is going on inside the brain of an adolescent. The brain cells that number in the billions are all coordinating with one another in a much-defined manner. This is contrary to what the adolescent may be doing outwardly, which may appear incoherent and unsystematic. The new way of thinking is caused by the biological changes that are taking place within the brain of the young adult (Walsh 2007 p. 87). There are also quite a number of aspects that the young person is striving to deal with such as school and other more theoretical conceptions that are common in adult life. They begin to view life from a completely new perspective.

Adolescents go through a lot in the course of the stage that they are enduring. The nurturing process of these young adults is quite entailing for the parents. The key proposal is in having the parents understand that adolescents are their responsibility. This stage is quite almost the opposite of puberty (Wen 2008 p. 1508). The parents or guardians are the most affected in this regard since they play a crucial role in advocating for the correct behavior and adaptation to society by their adolescent children. The proposed policy on adolescents aims to have a positive effect on reducing adolescent problems.

Understanding the adolescent brain

It is crucial to assist adolescents in understanding their problems. The main benefactors of these positive effects are the family unit, the youngsters, and society. The problem, however, remains one of the key issues that may still require extensive studies. In one case study, Lucas- Thompson (2012) observed, “the goal of the study was to explore theoretically suggested but untested links between inter-parental conflict and stress physiology in late adolescence” (p. 34). The study further elucidated on the fact “a multimethod study was conducted involving families (n = 42) who previously participated in the University California, Irvine site of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development; adolescents were 17½ years of age on average” (Lucas- Thompson, 2012, p. 34). Furthermore, the study proved that parent report and “observer ratings of conflict, adolescent participation in a robust social-evaluative stressor, and assessment of cortisol, cardiovascular, and emotional functioning were included” (Lucas- Thompson, 2012, p. 34). It concluded by stating “marital conflict was associated with dampened physiological stress responses in adolescence but sensitized emotional responses, suggesting that conflict may be associated with problems integrating and coordinating emotional and physiological responses to stress” (Lucas- Thompson, 2012, p. 34). The paper proposes that teenagers be assisted in understanding their brain growth.

Strain on marriages

The fact that most couples endure stressful periods, which may lead to marital conflict, is one of the main facts that need to be addressed since the conflict spills over to the adolescents. They, in turn, may react differently since they are caught up in the conflict of the same adults who they are either rebelling against or trying to emulate while at the same time trying to seek their own identity. Curbing or controlling family conflicts will definitely go a long way in addressing the issues faced by adolescents. The paper proposes that parents must not let their troubles spill over to the young ones especially the teenagers. They must protect them.

Adolescents in cross cultures

An examination of adolescents in cross-cultures exhibited the increased importance of the family unit as well as the participation of the wider community in a bid to address the issue of adolescent issues. The influence of parental involvement and time spent with their peers as among the most influential aspects of adolescent problems. The study reveals the same results across different cultures. Gardner, Browning and Gooks, (2012), carried out some research and explained that using longitudinal data from a subsample of “Hispanic, African American, and white youth enrolled in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (N = 1,419), we examined effects of parental involvement in domestic violence and youth participation in organized out-of-school activities on internalizing symptoms during adolescence” (p.21). They stated, “We also examined the extent to which participation in organized activities protected youth against the internalizing consequences of domestic violence” (Gardner, Browning & Gooks, 2012, p. 21). This shows the extent to which the attitude exuded by adolescents has reached. While addressing the issue, the study states, “We found that intensive participation in either afterschool programs or extracurricular activities was inversely associated with youth internalizing problems. Moreover, we found that intensive participation in afterschool programs weakened the association between parents’ domestic violence and youths’ internalizing problems” (King 2009 p. 959).

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The paper proposes that parents “ought to encourage their adolescent children to abstain from going into too many afterschool activities especially with their peers” (King 2009 p. 959). This being a difficult task, it may be more pertinent to state that adolescents ought to be offered more education on the dangers of getting involved in extra activities that may lead them into trouble. Some situations may call for extra activities especially in homes that have many conflicts between the parents. This may act as a deterrent to the adolescent being exposed to the violence whether verbal or physical.

Alcohol use and abuse

Adolescent consumption of alcohol is one major impediment to the attainment of the goals of agencies and institutions addressing the issue of adolescent problems. Rocheleau and Swisher (2012) depict that there are quite a number of instances whereby “previous research finds adolescent work hours to be associated with increased alcohol use. Most studies, however, fail to account for possible selection effects that lead youth to both work and substance use” (p. 18). As it was quite complex, the study went ahead to depict “Using data from the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 12,620), a fixed-effects regression method is employed to control for stable between-person differences neglected by previous studies” (Rocheleau and Swisher, 2012, p. 18). The resulting influences that were evidently affecting adolescents were displayed when results show “little relationship between work hours and alcohol use when controlling for individual heterogeneity. Results reveal variations, however, by family structure, with work hours being negatively associated with alcohol use among those from single-parent households” (Rocheleau and Swisher, 2012, p. 18). Furthermore, “results reveal variations, however, by family structure, with work hours being negatively associated with alcohol use among those from single-parent households” (Rocheleau and Swisher, 2012, p. 18).

Although exhibiting “significant main effects, family and peer processes fail to account for differences by family structure” (Rocheleau and Swisher, 2012, p. 18). The variations that are evidently revealed from the research depict a picture of uncertainty in terms of alcohol abuse in single-parent families within working situations. The adolescents who work may be more inclined to abuse alcohol due to the nature of the work hours that they may keep. This is more so the case in single-parent families where the parent or guardian, as well as the adolescent, may both be holding jobs. The paper states that parents and society must discourage adolescent consumption of alcohol.

Adopted and nonadopted adolescents

Several studies have been carried out on adopted and nonadopted adolescents and their behaviors. The consensus is “adopted children show more problem behaviors than nonadopted children do” (Brooker et al. 2012, p.21). Given that internationally adopted individuals show “earlier puberty than nonadopted individuals, and early puberty is associated with the problem behaviors in nonadopted youth, we analyzed data from adopted domestic adoptees to determine whether problem behaviors could be explained by differences in pubertal timing” (Brooker et al. 2012, p.21). The fact that adopted children proffer more challenges than nonadopted ones concerning adolescent problems goes to show that society has a huge role to play in terms of adolescent behavior.

However, relative to nonadopted “controls (n = 153), domestically adopted girls (n = 121) had earlier menarche, earlier sexual initiation, and more conduct disorder symptoms. Age at menarche partially mediated the relation of adoptive status to sexual initiation, but not to conduct symptoms” (Brooker et al. 2012, p.21). Brooker et al. (2012) may explain the fact that the resulting effects of adoption have influence over children’s behavior when they state, “extending findings from international adoptees, results show that domestic adoption is also linked to earlier puberty, and suggest early puberty as one mechanism linking adoption to problematic outcomes” (p. 21). Adoption plays a vital role in the adolescent stage since it hinges on the past life of the adolescent and their present and future. A violent past could lead to a violent future or effects from the violence that the child endured. Studies carried out on youngsters adopted from international regions show that they mature faster in domestic situations. This may be intertwined with the maturing and adolescent problems because of the situation they are placed in. The paper proposes that adopted adolescents should be given the attention they deserve lest they start feeling unwanted.

Adolescent tendencies

There are different aspects of psychological difficulties that may be observed in order to understand the behavioral patterns of adolescents. Some researchers have discovered “patterns of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and their association with other psychological difficulties were studied in a community sample of young Swedish adolescents, by a two-wave longitudinal design with a 1-year interval” (Bjärehed, Wångby-Lundh, & Lundh, 2012, p.35). The “hierarchical cluster analysis at T1 identified eight NSSI subgroups in each gender, of which five were clearly replicated at T2” (Bjärehed, Wångby-Lundh, & Lundh, 2012, p.35). The researchers further discovered among these were “a subgroup with generalized high-frequency NSSI, which was associated with both internalizing and externalizing problems, and a subgroup of girls who engaged primarily in cutting and showed mainly internalizing problems” (Bjärehed, Wångby-Lundh, & Lundh, 2012, p.35). They concluded that there was a need to address the issues of psychological profiles. These profiles will enable the institutions faced with such problems as these to handle them sufficiently.

Bjärehed, Wångby-Lundh, & Lundh (2012) concluded, in general, “NSSI clusters among girls were more stable over time and associated with problems that are more psychological. The results indicate that different patterns of NSSI have different developmental and clinical implications” (p.35). This implies that there is no direct relation between the various ranges of problems that the adolescents may encounter. The majority of these problems were more psychological than any other form. In a bid to exert pressure on parents or guardians, the adolescents put themselves in precarious and vulnerable situations with no intention of losing their lives (Walsh 2007 p. 87). The results depict a picture of clinical and developmental problems.

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The influence of drugs and alcohol on adolescents

Plenty of research has shown that the rampant use of alcohol and other drugs is pivotal in determining the behavioral patterns of adolescents. Haas and Smith (2012), in their research, stated that this relationship may be in the differences in drinking, consequences, and perceptions “examined between alcohol-using college students by smoking status (current, past, and lifetime nonsmoker). Entering freshmen (N = 558: 45% male, 72% Caucasian, age M = 18) completed a questionnaire assessing smoking, drinking and health perceptions” (p. 46). They further depicted that their own results indicated current smokers “drank more frequently, were more likely to drink to intoxication, and had more physiological consequences (e.g., blackouts, coordination problems) than past or lifetime nonsmokers, but past smokers also reported riskier drinking than lifetime nonsmokers” (Haas & Smith 2012 p. 46). To be able to understand properly, the rate that the health of alcohol-consuming individuals deteriorates, Haas and Smith (2012) stated, despite a higher prevalence of “alcohol-related health problems in both current and past smokers, no health differences were found. Results replicate findings that current smokers are at increased risk for problematic drinking and identify past smokers as another risk group” (p.46). The paper proposes to keep adolescents away from any sort of drugs.

Effects of smoking on adolescents

Although there was no significant difference in terms of health in matters pertaining to the high prevalence of alcohol-related problems, the researchers concluded that smokers were more susceptible to problematic drinking. The issue of smoking adversely affects the groups that the researchers classified. There are quite a number of groups when it comes to classifying smokers among adolescents. The number of adolescents drinking is relatively proportional to the number of adolescents smoking although it is not necessarily at equilibrium. The effects of alcohol-induced conditions that range from psychological reasons vary among the diverse range of smokers (Wen 2008 p. 1508). Each group is classified in a different way since the long-time smokers and the beginners fall into different categories. The paper proposes strict measures on cigarette and tobacco-related products and the access of adolescents to them.

Peer support group among adolescents

Adolescents rely a lot on their accompanying persons for support. It is always important to be able to sort out the company that they keep since it is not wise to have them carry out a lot of unsupervised socializing. In a bid to elucidate on the aspect of friendships and the influence of friends among adolescents, Siennick and Osgood (2012) observed that companions are essential to explanations of the perilous nature of unstructured and unsupervised “socializing, yet we know little about whom adolescents are with when hanging out. We examine predictors of how often friendship dads hang out via multilevel analyses of longitudinal friendship-level data on over 5,000 middle schoolers” (p.25). Adolescents within any society tend to associate with their peers and thus may rely on their friends heavily to make decisions that may or may not be for their own good. The availability of an adolescent’s friends and the convenience that they proffer them may determine whom they associate with many of the times. The research further states, “Adolescents hang out most with their most available friends and their most generally similar friends, not with their most at-risk or similarly at-risk friends. These findings vary little by gender and wave” (Siennick & Osgood 2012 p. 25). Some adolescents will mostly seek out friends whom they find easy to locate and not those who pose risks to them. together, the findings suggest that “the risk of hanging out stem from the nature of hanging out as an activity, not the nature of adolescents’ companions, and that hanging out is a context for friends’ mutual reinforcement of preexisting characteristics” (Siennick & Osgood 2012 p. 25).

The main aspect that most adults are familiar with about adolescents is the groups that they stay around most of their time. It may be pertinent to get more information on the company that an adolescent is keeping so that one can ensure that they do not fall into the wrong company. This is one of the most challenging tasks yet; it is one of the most effective methods that can be used to curb rampant behavior from adolescents. The paper proposes that parents be obligated to know whom their adolescent children stay with most of the time.

Discussion and conclusion

In line with the public policy on adolescent problems that affect society, the proposal here is that parents ought to be taught about how their teenager’s brain works. It has been a rising problem that has been put off for too long with the assumption that it may eventually sort itself out. This may be because the stage lasts for only some time, which is a couple of years then dies out. It only gets worse when the effects aggravate society such as numerous cases of drug-related problems that emanate with the culprits being mostly young adolescents who may have a number of reasons for doing what they believe makes them look good. With the present-day situation, which has become much more complex, there is a serious need for the issues to be addressed. This will go a long way in reducing mortality rates among young people due to certain factors that can be avoided. The continued development exposes the young adults to more issues that may be out of their scope of understanding, yet they want or feel as if they are ready to handle them. They may fail to understand that there are many issues they still need to acquaint themselves with within their lives and those of others.

There are quite a number of disorders that may be observed in adolescents such as suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia. These are among a wider scope of disorders that may affect adolescents, and they would be much better off understanding what it is that they are going through as individuals. The disruption and inconsistency in an adolescent’s life may be explained by the changes that they are enduring. These changes are mainly in the brain and are based on the hormones of the young person. They may behave in strange ways although this may be viewed as being part of the stage of adolescence. Restructuring, as well as rewiring the adolescent’s brain, offers an outlet that provides the physical foundation for the significant growth of the mental faculties of the adolescent. With the proposed policy to address the issue stepped up, it will be up to the wider scope of society to address the issue by teaching the adolescents about how to handle themselves in an appropriate manner.

This paper proposes to teach adolescents aggressively about the dangers of not using contraceptives and the effects of unprotected sex, as well as the dangers associated with contraction of lethal diseases such as HIV, which is of paramount importance. Key in this proposal is the use of school-based programs, which would go a long way in ensuring that the adolescents are informed of the dangers of living dangerously. This is because they will be in the right forum and they may be able to discuss them easily with their peers, matters that they would otherwise feel uneasy discussing with others about in other situations. This knowledge becomes a key factor in preventing adolescent problems. Several other aspects may need to be addressed such as the issues of early-unprotected sex among adolescents. This may have dire consequences on the young adults since the rate of births among adolescents, as well as the rates of HIV infections, will also go up if they go unchecked. These issues are already a cause of disagreement for most of the people in society.

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The paper proposes to check the rampant use of illicit substances in order for adolescents to appreciate the finer aspects of their lives. These substances may be directly related to the increasing rate of HIV infections as well as the increasing number of deaths and births among adolescents due to having unprotected sex. Ultimately, the key concern lies in the control of these illicit substances although there are quite a number of other issues that need to be checked too. The brain of an adolescent will have attained the ability to maintain attention as well as to carry out a number of tasks at the same time. The adolescent also gains the ability to experience the impulses that are mostly physical that an adult goes through and still be able to make an informed decision on when to act upon the instinct. This will be the beginning of the full development of the young person’s brain to its full capacity. All that has to be done is to be able to understand how the adolescent’s brain works and why they act as they do for their problems to be addressed.


Bjärehed, J., Wångby-Lundh, M. & Lundh, L.-G. (2012). Nonsuicidal self-injury in a community sample of adolescents: subgroups, stability, and associations with psychological difficulties, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 55(5), 10-19.

Brooker, R. J., Berenbaum, S. A., Bricker, J., Corley, R. P. & Wadsworth, S. A. (2012). Pubertal timing as a potential mediator of adoption effects on problem behaviors, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(4), 111-119.

Gardner, M., Browning, C., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2012). Can organized youth activities protect against internalizing problems among adolescents living in violent homes? Journal of Research on Adolescence, 76(2), 101-119.

Haas, A. L., & Smith, S. K. (2012). The relationship of smoking status to alcohol use, problems, and health behaviors in college freshmen, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 66(3), 19-39.

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Siennick, S. E. & Osgood, D. W. (2012). Hanging out with which friends? friendship-level predictors of unstructured and unsupervised socializing in adolescence, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 60(1), 1-9.

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Wen, M. (2008). Family structure and children’s health and behavior. Journal of Family Issues, 29(11), 1492-1519.