Give adolescents time to become social people
Puberty hormones boost young people's social development. As social challenges are crucial for developing into adulthood, young people should be given the space they need. This is the key theme in `The social brain of adolescents´, the new book by Professor of Neurocognitive Development Psychology Eveline Crone.
With this book, written four years after her bestseller ´The adolescent brain´, Crone once again shows herself to be an ´ambassador´ for adolescents. Not because she justifies their contrary behaviour, but because she explains why adolescents fail to keep their appointments, why they ´forget´ their homework, endlessly hang out and chat with their friends, and can worry excessively about their looks and how others perceive them. All this behaviour is simply necessary for them to grow from adolescents into adults.
The ´Who am I?´ question that adolescents ask themselves is primarily answered through their social interactions with their peers. Acceptance, rejection and attraction play a key role in this context. Crone builds on scientific findings of the past five years to explain which brain mechanisms are involved in this process. These are areas of the brain that play a role in reading social signals: recognising the emotions evident in facial expression and posture, experiencing these signals as indicating acceptance or rejection, but also social influence, and dealing with social signals, i.e. empathising with people and being able to see someone else’s perspective. These areas function differently in adolescents than in adults, because the adolescent brain is still developing.
The brain areas that are activated when seeing an angry or happy face are more active in adolescents, which shows that they are hyper-sensitive to these emotions. The brain area which is important for thinking about oneself is also overactive in adolescence. Crone discovered that it is worse for adolescents to be excluded than to be bullied. Being completely ignored leads to stress, feelings of depression and lower self-esteem. This emotional pain shows up in the brain: the brain area which is activated by physical pain is also activated when someone is socially excluded. Conversely, acceptance activates the same brain areas as reward.
Het sociale brein van de puber (The social brain of adolescents)
Bert Bakker Publishers
Price € 17.95
(29 May 2012)
'Health across the Human Life Cycle’ is one of the six research profile themes at Leiden University.