The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen, MD with Amy Ellis Nutt


A stark departure from my usual posts, this non-fiction book is the product of a neuroscience researcher who also survived as a single mom raising her own 2 sons through their adolescent years.  It is written for parents – not just for those of us who work with adolescents – so while it is somewhat technical, it also is quite readable.  While the authors describe many studies about how the brain functions and how adolescent brains function uniquely, they also pepper the chapters with anecdotes about specific individuals who illustrate their points.  The stories are quite poignant and really keep the reader engaged.

What I like about this book is that it is not all negative and bad news.  Adolescents often get slammed when written about, with emphasis only on the risky behaviors and the poor decision-making that they are capable of.  While there is some of that here, there is also explanation for why they are vulnerable to unwise decisions – their still developing frontal cortices, primarily.  In addition, there is also very positive discussion about the plasticity of their brains, which enables them to learn much more easily and quickly than those of us who are older.  There is interesting discussion about why adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction, whether to smoking or drugs or gambling, etc., and there is also discussion of mental illness and legal issues.  Finally, there is also discussion of the emerging adult, or the post-adolescent, which is a newer area of investigation.

In this text, you’ll find reasoned parenting advice, strategies to help teens cope with difficulties, and resources, which any parent of a teen can benefit from.  This book is not for everyone, but if you are a parent of teens and have questions or issues, I would recommend this as a resource.  Also, if you work with teens in any capacity, this is a must-read.   Check it out!