• Question: I am interested in whether there is anything in the brain that means adolescents become more interested in gaining the respect and attention of their peers rather than that of the adults around them. With young children they are very keen to please and gain recognition from the adults around them, but with adolescents it seems they find greater reward in the attention from peers. Is there anything behind this?

    Asked by vmarshall to Rebecca, Nicola, Mike, Lucía, Kinga, Iroise on 12 Mar 2018.
    • Photo: Lucía Magis Weinberg

      Lucía Magis Weinberg answered on 12 Mar 2018:


      Definitively, there is a lot of work showing that there is social reorientation during adolescence, perhaps related to hormonal changes in puberty, in which peers become particularly relevant and an important motivator for teens. An important developmental goal for teens is to gain independence, and learn about and practice with social relationships. This is also related to changes in maturation in regions of the brain that respond to social and exciting/rewarding stimuli

    • Photo: Kinga Morsanyi

      Kinga Morsanyi answered on 12 Mar 2018:


      You can check out this TED talk about adolescent brain development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xo6KGWFXHA
      It’s not so recent but still very relevant.

    • Photo: Nicola Botting

      Nicola Botting answered on 12 Mar 2018:


      Also Theory of Mind – the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and emotions – is going through change in adolescence. Here’s a link to an article on this: https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/7/1/53/1638079

    • Photo: Rebecca Gotlieb

      Rebecca Gotlieb answered on 12 Mar 2018:


      I agree with Nicola (in the comments below) that it may not be possible to simulate peer relationships, but it is the case that although conflict with parents increases during adolescence, adolescents with greater empathic abilities and those who have been taught about empathic skills show less conflict and better conflict resolution with parents, and likely with teachers too.
      I am based in the US and do not know as much about what is happening in the UK. In the U.S. at both the state and federal level there are relatively new education legislation that calls for schools to measure students’ progress with social-emotional skill development, including the development of skills like empathy and perspective-taking.
      There is a study that might be of interest to you about the way teaching teachers an empathetic mindset let to reduction in adolescents’ school suspension and in increase in the amount of respect at-risk students believed their teachers had for them http://www.pnas.org/content/113/19/5221.short

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