Teenage mental health: science can help us to know our teens


Teenage mental healthTeenage mental health: let’s know our teens

To talk about teenage mental health we first need to know how teenagers’ minds work.

Maybe we need the assistance of science to help us understand this.

I’m going to illustrate some scientific findings about how teenagers’ brains work.  I will not be citing the sources of these studies, and I’ll explain why later.


It’s commonly believed that teenagers are difficult to understand.  They are changing continuously as their brains grow and mature.  Their behaviour, levels of attention, and motivations are sometimes difficult for their parents to understand.

Or, could it be that they don’t fit the image of the model teen that parents have in their heads?

Is it that teens are difficult to understand, or rather is it that they are difficult to mould into our desired model?

Could this difficulty arise from the parents’ feelings of guilt in attempting to mould their teens into the form that our profoundly sick society desires?

Would it be better to investigate this conundrum further in a bid to improve teenage mental health?


Science tells us that, during teen years, teenagers show changes in motivation.  It seems that the brain circuits involved in motivation are underutilised.

They could thus at times show a lack of motivation, and this can also be variable.

Does this not happen to us, the adults, too?  Isn’t our pretending to show constant motivation unnatural?

Are teens right to follow the highs and lows of their natural motivation?  Are we right to pretend to force ourselves into a constantly motivated state similar to that of machines?

What if a genuine level of motivation is better than a false one?

Science says that teens need time to achieve the “correct” levels of motivation.  Are these levels really correct?

It seems that in order to motivate teens to do their homework, it’s more effective to give them £5 now, rather than £30 next week.  They prefer to have less now, rather than more later.

We are improving their insufficient natural motivation by bribing them.  Are we sure that their natural motivation isn’t better than the one achieved through bribery?

Is it insulting to be motivated by bribery?

What sort of motivation would be better for our teenagers’ mental health?

Risk taking behaviour

Teens are known for their willingness to take risks.  If we are interested in teenage mental health, we have to assist them in taking risks.  Yes, you have read well.  We have to help them to pursue risk taking activities.

Life is risk.  Even if modern life is less risky than in the past, there is still a level of risk attached.  We, the parents, are there to teach our teens to face the risks involved in life.  Animals can do it, so why can’t we?

Science tells us that teens’ brains are less equipped to cope with risks.  Sure, how could they be prepared with so little practice?  You have to practice risk-taking before you become good at it.

There is a site about risk-taking where you can discover ideas about potentially dangerous activities you could encourage your children to take part in, in order to train them to take risks.


Are you listening?  The parent asks the teen.

It looks like teenagers are capable of lower levels of attention than adults.  It’s a problem at school too.

Schools want teens to pay attention, in order to enable them to fill their minds with notions, and encourage them to see themselves simply as vessels to fill.  Schools are wrong, however, teens’ minds are not vessels to fill, but rather wood to ignite.

Why do we want more attention from teens?

Maybe it’s because more attention means more production.  More production means more success.  More success means more money.  More money means more happiness.  Will producing and consuming more really make us happier?

What if it is difficult to give attention to subjects that are boring, when nobody even thought to ask us whether we like them or not?

What if the attention we, the adults, give is forced, unnatural, inhuman and much more akin to the levels achieved by computers?  Is there anything human left in it?

Could it be true that if teens were given a chance to discover their own spontaneous interests, then they would be more motivated, and thus give much more attention?

The mountain

There is a mountain in front of us, but we don’t seem to see it.  The mountain represents our need to use science as a tool to better understanding our teens’ brains.

It seems that we can’t have a genuine and truly human relationship with our teens.  It looks like we can’t listen to them without models, expectations, prejudices and scientific facts standing in the way.

Our human relationships are also no longer authentic or natural in the workplace, and in many other aspects of our lives.

The fact that we need science to teach us how to relate to our teens should greatly alarm us.

Does the art of improving teenage mental health involve regaining a natural and human relationship with our teens, free from any society driven constraints?

I haven’t cited the sources of the scientific studies used here because I know that we can regain natural relationships with our teens.  It requires a lot of courage, but it can be done, and we will no longer rely on science in order to relate to our teens.


Where to go now?