Why do teens behave that way?

Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University, joins Kerri at 9:06 to discuss the teenage brain and rethinking how we punish juvenile offenders based on his research into neural development.

Even an ordinary, non-criminal teenager has raging gray matter. One of the experts in the Frontline special Inside the Teenage Brain. says, “In many ways, it is the most tumultuous time of brain development since coming out of the womb.”

What has your experience been with the teenage brain? How did your behavior or your child’s behavior change in adolescence?

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Stephanie

    From our guest:

    About MRIs: “We need to resist the idea that this trumps everything. As scientists, we have been lucky so far that all these different pieces are lining up in the same direction.”

    “Teens are much more likely to commit crimes in groups than adults. Risk taking in adolescence is a group phenomenon.”

  • Mark

    So shouldn’t this research lead to an ethical discussion of drafting/recruiting teenagers into the military?

  • @dailycircuit
  • @dailycircuit
  • Stephanie Curtis


    Dr. Steinberg says that they have a grant from the Army to see how decisions are made by groups of soldiers made up of only teens compared to those that have older soldiers and teens.

    Results not available yet, but the Army is interested in the same question you have.

  • Dave

    My son spent about a year in and out of private rehab facilities for pot. The judges sentence the kids to an open ended stay at a private sector rehab facility, the facilities get to decide who is ready to go home and when, while they intentionally antagonize kids into making mistakes to justify longer stays. My son watched them change rules in order to extend kids, intentionally push kids towards violent behavior all the while the amount of money these private companies are making is absurd. Somebody needs to investigate these facilities and change the rules so they are not performing their own analysis when they have the financial incentive to keep kids longer.


  • MaryB Newcomb

    Last year we were the court appointed guardian for a 13 year old boy who we have mentored for three years. He committed a minor but serious offense and was unable to return home while he was on probation. We were impressed by the juvenile justice system here in Duluth. The judge was excellent. The support we all received from the juvenile probation system (especially intensive supervised probation officers) and the court appointed counseling was outstanding. It helped this generally sweet but immature young teen learn some self-control that his family(unfortunately) had been unable to provide. He has since returned home and is more successful in school. While he still has a long way to go our experience with the juvenile justice was very positive. Out thanks to the very talented and dedicated professionals who worked with us.

  • Mark

    @Stephanie – Thank you for the information. I think my question is more to the ethics of recruiting teenagers based on how they make decisions when their brains are in that teenager stage of development as opposed to how those teenagers behave in the military.

    Given the risk/reward and risk taking in groups to which teens are more susceptible, is it reasonable to expect the teen is making an informed, long-term decision when that teen is being recruited for the military?

  • Tiffnie Lothrop

    My 16 yr. old son murdered the boy that threatened his life and raped his girlfriend. For this murder, my son is now serving 27 years in a Washington State prison. All of his peers in his social group knew about the rape. The father of the girl who was raped demanded that his daughter drop charges because he was afraid of the rapist. All of my son’s peers knew about the rape and the rapist, the boy who was to be my son’s victim: a youngster in need of psychological help, who had been on meds since age 5 for behavior issues, who threw urine on and assaulted girls at school, who fought (and won) any boy that he could engage in such, who physically threatened my son on a number of occasions (e.g. driving a truck at my son as my son was crossing the street). So my son plotted and murdered this boy. My son did not tell his parents about the situation because he didn’t want to be humiliated in front of his peers. This is the juvenile mind. As an interesting aside, the high school which both my son and his victim attended, was informed by a parent of one my son’s peers, that a murder plot was afoot. The school ignored the warning and was forced to settle a lawsuit with the family of the victim. Also, my son’s father, the custodial parent at the time, was forced to pay five thousand dollars to the victim’s family even though my son was tried as an adult.

  • Janet Cardin

    I go pail, become dizzy and thank the good Lord that I am still alive when I think of the many life-risking things I did as a teen-ager. With me, I was in denial. I truly did not believe that I could get hurt, but, in my more sane moments, I truly believed that one or both of my parents or any other adult could fix anything and everything.

    With Dave, (November 15, 2012), the company I work for agrees. This is across the board with the exception of medical care who are held in a legal manner for such irresposibility. This is also true for many personal relationships and drug-rehab centers. The test is: Let us dangle the drug in front of you and if you grab, you are not healed. tThis is not only unethical it is illegal.