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December 30th, 2011

“Beautiful Brains”

There was a fascinating article in National Geographic a few weeks back which James mentioned in his ‘Who asked you anyway?’ post. As he said, the article describes the development process that the brain goes through during the teenage years and the impact this on their actions.

In order to make a decision an adult will take into consideration many different variables such as desire, rules, risks, past experience etc. This involves drawing on information from many different parts of the brain. During the teenage years the connections within and between the different parts of the brain are still developing and growing stronger which means that a young person is still learning to balance all these different variables which initially happens “clumsily”.

In my conversations with young people I can almost see this process happening and to some degree have the privilege of being part of it. A core part of what we do is listening to young people, helping them become aware of, and find words for all the different things they are thinking and feeling towards different situations they face and helping them think through the different responses available to them and weighing those responses up in light of their possible consequences. This is sophisticated stuff and isn’t learnt quickly. In fact the article suggests that these “connections” aren’t fully formed until we are 25.

As well as a reminder to be patient(!) this gives me renewed faith in the value of the work we are doing, supporting young people in their development.

References from “Beautiful Brains” by David Dobbs