Adolescent Brains Not Ready to Avoid Risks, Study Says
April 10, 2007
A Temple University
psychologist argues that society would be better off
using strict laws to prevent risky behaviors by
adolescents rather than education programs, saying
that teens' brains are too immature to avoid
USA Today reported April 5.
"We need to rethink our
whole approach to preventing teen risk," said
researcher Laurence Steinberg, who drew his
conclusions after reviewing a decade's worth of
research on the adolescent brain. "Adolescents are at
an age where they do not have full capacity to control
themselves. As adults, we need to do some of the
Steinberg said society
would be best served by raising the driving age,
increasing cigarette prices, and enforcing
underage-drinking laws than investing in prevention
programs. "I don't believe the problem behind teen
risky behavior is a lack of knowledge," he said. "The
programs do a good job in teaching kids the facts.
Education alone doesn't work. It doesn't seem to
affect their behavior."
"Kids will sign drug
pledges. They really mean that, but when they get in a
park on a Friday night with their friends, that pledge
is nowhere to be found in their brain structure,"
agreed psychologist Michael Bradley. "They're missing
the neurologic brakes that adults have."
co-director of the Center on Children and Families at
the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said the
findings are "good research for policymakers to
consider, but we shouldn't infer from this research
that all our past efforts have been ineffective. I'm
not in favor of just doing education, but I'm also not
in favor of not doing it, either. We need to do some
The research review was
published in the April 2007 issue of
Current Directions in Psychological Science.
summarizes a mainstream media report of research
published in a scientific journal. It is not an
original analysis of the source material, which is
cited in the reference above.