A teenager has not reached adult levels in terms of maturing and functioning.
Is the brain of a teenager of age 15 completely developed, like an adult? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
Is the brain of a teenager of age 15 completely developed, like an adult? In some ways yes, in other ways no. Overall, a teenager (age 15) has not reached adult levels in terms of maturing and functioning. All the stuff is there, you have the neurons and the connections largely in place. In the 15 years (+9 months) prior, your brain has grown and developed all the areas, migrated the neurons to the areas they need to be, and pruned down the connections they made to have an efficient system.
The most important thing that now still needs to happen (or is happening) is the optimization of your brain.
Brains mature in a certain order, something that we can also see in behavioral development. Sensori-motor areas, for example, develop first. The connections are optimized and coated in myeline, a fatty substance that both protects and speeds up signal transmission. Young children also develop their senses and motor skills first, babies start out exploring with their eyes and then become mobile.
During your teens and early twenties you are more or less in the last phase of development. The last areas to mature are the frontal areas. The ones we use for executive functions like planning, inhibition, reasoning, and problem solving. It’s like everything is ready, except the part that is supposed to keep it all in check, which is why we see such interesting behavior in teenagers.
A good example is that teenagers/adolescents rely more on their emotional areas when making decisions or interpretations. They are swayed more by their peers, wanting approval, seeking sensation. Combine that with less developed planning and reasoning, and we get some typical teen behavior.
This short text gives a good overview of some of the stuff going on in a teenage noggin, it’s worth a read if you are interested and provides a good basis for further research.
This maturation is finished somewhere around 25 years of age. Some people sooner, some later, but generally the difference is only a couple of years. At 15 you still have about a decade of maturing to go, and trust me when I say a lot happens in that decade. Grown-up as you might feel, when you are 25 you will look back at your teens and cringe hard. The things that seem so important no longer matter that much, priorities shift, worldviews change. It’s a strange feeling, so if you want to cringe, keep track of your thoughts now.