Scientists Discover Reason For Teens' Risky Behaviour

Low angle view of friends in a huddle
Low angle view of friends in a huddle

It's time to give your risk-taking teenager a break – because their behaviour isn't their fault!

Scientists say a teenage brain really does work differently to an adult's because their brains aren't properly wired up yet.

Researchers have found that making a snap decision usually means following your initial 'gut' reaction. That intuitive feeling comes from the limbic system, the evolutionarily older and simpler part of the brain that affects emotion, behaviour and motivation.

However, during adolescence, the limbic system connects and communicates with the rest of the brain differently than it does during adulthood, leaving many adolescents vulnerable to riskier behaviours.

Kevin LaBar, a professor in the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in North Carolina, said: "We know adolescence is a time of profound social change. It's also a profound time for risk-taking - a time period when peer influence is more important.

"This is when we start establishing independent relationships with adults, and some of those relationships are going to be influenced by how trustworthy those people are.

"It's important in these relationships to evaluate who you can and can't trust."

The study appears in the March 2014 Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The findings could help design prevention and treatment interventions that hone in on risky decision-making or help adolescents with mental illness rely more on themselves to make decisions.