Thursday, September 08, 2005

Still Thinking About Parenting A Teen...

I recently met a woman that researches teen brain activity (or lack thereof) on the plane. She told me that subtlety does not work with teens. If you have an angry or annoyed tone in your voice, they will not pick up on it. If your facial expression is angry, annoyed or sad, they won't notice that either, as they are focused on themselves exclusively. She said that showing adults drawings of people, then asking what emotions are showing in the drawings, yielded a 95% accuracy in adults. When shown to teens, they have less than 10% correct. For example, an angry face would get a response "are they hungry?" No, duh, but the teenager probably is. The following article reinforces the information I learned on the plane, but adds one wrinkle --which is important to me. That fact is that it passes by age 16 or 17.

The relevant portion of the article follows:

The ability of boys and girls to decode social cues and recognize emotions, particularly anger and sadness, dips between the ages of 12 and 14, researchers at University College London and the Institute of Child Health have discovered.
"It would appear that this is a function of the development of their brain at that time," Professor David Skuse, of the group's behavioral science unit, told a conference on Thursday.
"It is a real biologically based phenomenon from which, fortunately, they recover," he added.
So rather than rebellious teenagers being deliberately obstinate or difficult, their brains may be unable to detect subtle signs from parents, teachers and other adults or to decode them correctly.
The same brain circuits involved in recognizing facial expression are also associated with processing tone of voice, according to Skuse.
"The ability to interpret your irritated tone of voice, the ability to interpret your angry facial expression may well deteriorate during that period of early adolescence," he added.
But the problem seems to disappear by the age of 16 or 17.

Thank goodness for that!!!!