By Hank Pellissier
What's a brief, ecstatic activity that can result in sobering, long-term consequences? Unsafe sex, with its high-risk of pregnancy, STDs, or both. The teen brain is uniquely prey to a risk-taking libido because it has a well-developed nucleus accumbus that seeks pleasure, but it's weak in assessing probability (due to immature frontal lobes). This leads to over-valuing short-term benefits, while underestimating enduring damage, also known as "leaping before you look." Throw in alcohol, drugs, and peer group pressure (see below), and the probability of unsafe sex shoots even higher.
A study published in the journal Developmental Science indicates that high schoolers behave far more recklessly when their friends are watching. Researcher Laurence Steinberg opined to the New York Times that teens, "do a lot of stupid things with their friends that they wouldn't do when they are by themselves," partly due to the fact that their "brain system involved in reward processing is also involved in the process of social information." Since teen craziness is both epidemic and contagious, try to convince your children to associate with buddies who have demonstrated at least a shred of self-restraint.
Photo credit: Datingammo_king
Next: Sobering facts »
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