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The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

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An internationally respected neurologist offers a revolutionary look at the brains of adolescents, providing surprising insights--including why smart kids often do stupid things--and practical advice for adults and teens.

In this groundbreaking, accessible book, Dr. Frances E. Jensen, a mother, teacher, researcher, and internationally known expert in neurology, introduces us to the mystery and magic of the teen brain. One of the first books to focus exclusively on the neurological development of adolescents, The Teenage Brain presents new findings, dispels widespread myths, and provides practical suggestions for negotiating this difficult and dynamic life stage for both adults and adolescents.

Interweaving easy-to-follow scientific data with anecdotes drawn from her experiences as a parent, clinician, and public speaker, Dr. Jensen explores adolescent brain functioning and development, including learning and memory, and investigates the impact of influences such as drugs, multitasking, sleep, and stress. The Teenage Brain reveals how: Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we previously thought. Occasional use of marijuana has been shown to cause lingering memory problems, and long-term use can affect later adulthood I.Q. Multi-tasking causes divided attention and can reduce learning ability. Emotionally stressful situations in adolescence can have permanent effects on mental health, and may lead to higher risk for certain neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

Rigorous yet accessible, warm yet direct, The Teenage Brain sheds new light on young adults, and provides practical suggestions for how parents, schools, and even the legal system can better help them during this crucial period.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published August 1, 2014

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About the author

Frances E. Jensen

4 books37 followers
Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 634 reviews
Profile Image for Christopher Barry.
159 reviews7 followers
May 1, 2016
I read this because I teach 7th grade and I'm teaching a research writing unit on brain development - so unlike my few other 1-star reviews, I actually read the whole thing.

I'll paraphrase each chapter for you: "My children are great. Here's some science. Here's a completely unresearched anecdote I heard from somebody that relates to the science. My children are great because I talked to them. I'm great. Also, drugs are bad mmmkay."

I'd also suggest an alternate title: The Upper-Middle Class Teenage Brain: A Privileged Neuroscientist's Guide to Raising Adolescents who Go to Private Schools and Elite Colleges.

As a teacher in a very socio-economically diverse school, I was hoping for the book to address socio-economics and adolescent development in any substantial way - it did not. The tone of the book in some places was almost offensive, but was mostly laughable in regards to the way it ignores the realities of many working class and poor families and how that likely impacts brain development.

It is not a book I would recommend to the parents of my students. Also, if you are already familiar with adolescent brain development, pick a different book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
467 reviews13 followers
May 6, 2017
This is a book about trying to understand adolescent behavior by learning about adolescent brain development. She cites a number of studies and includes anecdotes from her life as well as her acquaintances'. It began with a general overview about how brains develop in the adolescent years and how teen brains are very different from adult brains. Then she dove into a DARE-esque portion where she gave as many reasons as she could why drug use is a terrible idea for teens. Super interesting, if not obviously biased (understandably). If you're into brain chemistry, then you will enjoy that part.

Here are some big take-aways:

1) The teenage brain has too much grey matter (brain cells) and not enough white matter (the material that helps get signals from one part of the brain to another). Messages don't always make it where they need to go!

2) Multi-tasking is impossible at any age.

3) Teens have the same amount of hormones as young adults - they just respond to them differently.

4) Teens have a lower tolerance for stress hormones and are more likely to have stress-related disorders and illnesses.

5) Prospective memory, the ability to remember to do something in the future, stops developing at about 10 years old and doesn't start up again until your 20's. (Students need to use reminders and planners!!)

6) Babies are basically in a constant acid trip - they have tons of neurons that aren't connected yet.

7) Brain growth in adolescence makes learning lots of new stuff possible and easier - including addictions.

8) Kids and teens have more excitatory neurotransmitters than inhibitory - it's easier for them to act than to not act.

9) Adolescents' circadian rhythms are different than adults - they are late to bed and late to rise.

10) Sleeping is so important!! Your brain prunes and streamlines connections you've made during the day. Sleeping before a test is just as important as studying.
Profile Image for Jennifer Heise.
1,644 reviews55 followers
October 19, 2016
I tried, I did. I just couldn't.

Jensen knows a lot about Neuroscience. I believe her on that one. But I'm really concerned whether she actually paid attention to what she wrote here, or whether she (and/or her ghostwriter, if she had one) just summarized statistics from a powerpoint.

It's a pity, because this could have been a really useful, interesting book about how our brains function and how they function on adolescence. But once she gets out of the functional parts, and into the parenting parts... I can't even.

Up to the point where I gave up in discuss, this was really more like "how to argue with your teenagers with neuroscience." These are the points where I got frustrated:

- first of all, she admits right off that she catastrophized when her son came home having dyed his hair blue. Blue hair? Blue hair is an emergency? I don't think so. She does seem to explain how she and other parents should come down off it, but I just get this feeling that she's coming from a white-picket-fence situation and terribilizing all the things that can go wrong.

- She seriously claimed that life offers more dangers to teenagers than in any time in history and that teens are less supervised than ever before. Look, I don't claim that life is a bed of roses for teenagers. But just because we have more different ways for a kid to get high and to embarrass themselves on social media, that doesn't mean life is more unsafe. Kids in the 1950s and 1960s were at a lot more risk for vehicular related deaths, alcohol related deaths, rape, teen pregnancy, getting killed AT WORK, being victimized sexually and not believed, poisoned, sent to war, dying in FISTFIGHTS, and other risks. There was a time when a 16 year old was an adult, and they could easily get married, get pregnant, and completely ruin their life socially or in truth by, oh, having their toddler accidentally burndown the house while they were in bed after a miscarriage. (Laura Wilder!) [Another anecdote: in the 1960s, my father and his teen friends were driving around the countryside in the middle of the night in a car with a broken heater which they heated with a kerosene stove in the back, holding pitchers of beer. ]

- the author likes to use anecdotes of terrible things happening. This strengthens the impact of her arguments but can backfire, as when she talks about 'a disaster' when a teenager steals the family car keys in a rage but backs through the garage door-- disaster would have been if they had been killed or killed someone else.)
- Furthermore, a lot of her arguments about how young people show impaired ability to balance risks center around alcohol-fueled exploits that end in death from exposure. First of all, young people have a risk to measure re: getting caught drunk that older people just don't have; furthermore, exposure has been demonstrated to mess with people's ability to judge what's the right thing to do-- fully grown adults have fled rescuers. So, that undermines her argument.

The part that started to really grate on me was the use of epidemiological studies that conflate causation and correlation. Ok, teen smokers are more likely to be smokers when they grow up. Is this because they were more exposed to smoke-- or that being the kind of person who becomes addicted to smoking causes them to try it? Teen smokers are more likely to suffer from mental illness. This is no suprise: those of us in whose families mental illness gallops know that smoking is one behavior people with mental illness get addicted to in an effort to manage reality. But since mental illness has such a strong genetic component, I'd accept nothing less than twin studies to show that smoking causes crazy.

At the end of the chapter on smoking, she suggests that if our teens insist on smoking, perhaps we should steer them towards smokeless tobacco, vaping or similar. CHEWING TOBACCO? You WANT your kid to rot their face off? what is wrong with you lady? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lif...
and if you're a scientist you should know that vaping liquids are not tested or regulated. That's just crazy.

Then we get into pot. She starts out by admitting that originally nobody in the medical establishment believed that pot made you crazy and stupid. Ok, I'm willing to believe that long-term use of pot messes with your brain. But all her data are epidemiological studies, or FLOODING SLICES OF RAT BRAIN with chemicals. Still, I was willing to sit through that.

And then she flat out says that pot-smoking causes schizophrenia.
All those parents and families who struggle to help, support and tolerate a schizophrenic family member will be pleased to know that the problem is just that they haven't kept their family member away from pot when they were a teenager. *headdesk* yes, I've seen the studies. The genetic link for schizophrenia is really really strong. Compared to that, very little makes sense. In fact, given that schizophrenia often rears its head before pot smoking... Anyway, there are studies that justifiably point out there's probably a genetic link between a tendency toward schizophrenia and a tendency toward pot addiction. http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v19/...

She did not just seriously go there.
She did.
*book drop*
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,951 followers
August 14, 2017
I'm a teacher switching grade levels, so I found this quite helpful, especially since I am a newcomer to much of the material. I found her explanations of what's physically going on in the brain throughout adolescence super helpful in making a foundation for the style of teaching I intend to adapt as I switch grade levels, and providing the immediate reference to point to if anyone has any questions as to why I do what I do. (I've since found a few other books that essentially say a lot of the same things, so it seems there's a consensus.)

Some of this is geared specifically towards parents rather than just people working with adolescents, and there are parts that might be specifically more helpful to counselors than teachers, but I think the important points work for everyone dealing with a teenager. The book can be somewhat repetitive at times, and there are definitely some chapters that I didn't find super relevant to me, but I'd say over half of the chapters were more than worth reading and I expect I will refer back to this book repeatedly this year.
Profile Image for Squibart.
357 reviews9 followers
June 6, 2015
The question of whether my 14 year old son was a narcissistic pathological liar or was just experiencing immature teenage brain syndrome was running rampant through my mind as I wandered through Barnes and Noble last week when this book appeared on the New Reads table with what seemed divine intervention. I didn't even question the price- which is not the way I shop in a retail book store, ever. I found myself experiencing different opinions as I moved through the chapters. At first I was fascinated just to be learning about the neurology and chemical make up of the brain. I have to say that I relied heavily on my past neurology courses I had taken in college oh so many years ago. Learning about the way the brain develops from back to front was the highlight of this book and how it applies to the developmental "brain stage" my son is currently in was enough for me to think that every person who works with adolescents should be reading this information. As the chapters started delving into different dangers and risks that our children take and discussing all the negative consequences of them to the brain, I felt panicked and eventually scared. I was disappointed that a book that touts itself as a "survival guide" offered little advice about how to use this information in any real life situation. It was filled with horror stories of children dying, becoming addicts, and developing mental illness or criminal records. The advice that was given can be summed up as "use these scary examples of bad things that dumb kids like yours did and tell your kids to not do the same things even though their brains are not equipped to make good choices." Oh and "Be involved." Hardly riveting information. As a result of reading this book I am not only worried about my own son, but everybody's child and I am watching to see which ones will not survive the ordeal of adolescence. And then she ends the book by completely dismissing much of what she had taught me by saying that since more research needs to be done we can't actually count this as truth yet. So- can I recommend this? yes- if you love neurology and want to know more about how the brain develops. No- if you are a parent looking for real advice. Maybe- if you are a professional who works with teens and want to gain a better understanding of how they think, As long as you are not looking for advice on how to teach them to overcome their own biology. If you have a highly intelligent teen who likes reading and you want to scare the crap out them- then have them read this! As for my original question, it was sorta answered but I don;t know what I can do about it anyway. Maybe read a copy of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
375 reviews
March 24, 2015
I heard about this up-to-date book about development and neuroscience of the adolescent brain on a radio interview. I would recommend the book because the research data is current and relevant and thought-provoking, but I found that the book was repetitive (links to the frontal lobe not yet developed) and provided too much case study about the primary author's own family.

The book first provides an overview of brain biology and physiology and is then well-organized into chapters about topics such as sleep, drugs, and crime, including references to relevant news stories. The adolescent and his or her developing brain is especially vulnerable to drug addiction (cigarettes, marijuana, other drugs), mental illness, and repeated concussions. The adolescent's phase shifted sleep cycle is convincingly shown to be late waking and late sleeping, a contrast from the early to bed and early to rise pattern of the young child. Concerning is the chronic sleep deprivation of teenagers and the dependence on energy drinks to stay alert and awake. Clearly, the generally early start times for high schools need to be reevaluated, and the author shows benefits to the students in schools that made adjustments.

The author's suggestions of how to apply the knowledge about the neuroscience of the adolescent brain have no references. Also, the chapter about juvenile delinquency and the author's role in recent Supreme Court precedents to consider the potential for rehabilitation in the adolescent offender does not include research about the effectiveness of juvenile rehabilitation programs. The author makes neuroscience and adolescent brain development accessible to the parents of teenagers and provides useful information, but she compromises on science by talking about her own children and family friends and by providing advice based on what she did as a parent of teenagers.
880 reviews
March 7, 2015
I skimmed this, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. However, I can say that it really seemed the author does not understand the difference between correlation and causality. Also, while she shares plenty of horror stories, and plenty of desperate letters that parents send to her, she has very few solutions or advice, other than "talk to your children." I was going that anyway, thanks very much.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,157 reviews126 followers
December 25, 2015
Obviously every chapter in this book could have it's own book but the author pulls out just enough information on each topic to be helpful to parents and share some interesting anecdotal stories to illustrate the points presented.

Certain chapters drew more of my attention. There's a history of alcoholism and mental illness in my family and so my fear that my children will at some point struggle with these issues may be higher than other parents. The neurological and statistical information in these two chapters are of particular interest to me, though I don't know if I'll be worrying less or more after reading them.

Jensen states; three-quarters of young adults with psychiatric illness had their first diagnosis between the ages of eleven and thirteen; between 20 and 60 percent of adults with bipolar disorder experienced the initial symptoms of the illness before they turned twenty; the use of cannabis in the early teens can hasten the onset of psychosis and increase the risk of schizophrenia. Even without smoking pot teenagers with a family history [of mental illness] have roughly a 1-in-10 chance of developing the condition. Marijuana use, though, doubles that risk to 1-in-5. Of course I know I would have been presenting a strong case for my children to avoid experimenting with drugs and alcohol but maybe even more so now after knowing the link between pot smoking and mental illness.

The chapters on technology and concussions were equally fascinating and made me feel good about the choices and restrictions my husband and I have made regarding our children's participation in organized sports as well as the rules we have for the limited technology we've chosen to allow into our home. We have no Wii, no Play Station, no Gameboy, no hand-held devices of any kind. And while I have never felt any guilt about this before, now I feel reaffirmed in these choices for our children. We allow a limited amount of screen time for each child and my son is much more attached to his time than my daughter. I can imagine a version of the future where he's a teenager addicted to technology, I'd like to think I'm doing what I can to avoid that version of the future and I feel like this book gives good insight as to how that path can very easily happen if you aren't diligent.

Jensen talks about parents approaching her and e-mailing their concerns about their teenage children and the crazy things they've done. The parents are trying to understand how their children could...sneak out of the house, raid the liquor cabinet, smoke pot in their bedroom while they were supposed to be studying. Some of these questions had me raising my eyebrows. Was it really that long ago that those parents were young? Maybe they never did anything naughty when they were teenagers? Well, I'll be honest, I did, I was naughty and it was fun to be naughty in the ways mentioned above. And if nothing else I will at least have a clue about what sorts of mischief my children will likely be up to when they think I'm not watching. A tip for all you parents who think you are clever by putting a lock on the liquor cabinet; if the hinges on the cabinet are exposed they can be removed and the cabinet can easily be accessed from the hinge side of the door. However Jensen offers neurological information about poor choices, faulty decision making and the thrill of engaging in risky behavior and how all of these things influence teenager's behavior. Much more helpful than just knowing kids think doing naughty things is fun.

Another reassuring bit of information, while 50 percent of the risk of developing alcoholism is genetically influenced, environment contributes to the other 50 percent. And experts have found that children model their behavior on the adults who are the most important to them and with whom they most frequently interact. Those who are monitored closely by their parents and who are given clear rules are less likely to abuse alcohol. Parents who heartily disapproved of underage drinking tended to have teenagers who engaged in less binge drinking once they got to college and the convers was true. Teens with lax parents were more likely to engage in risky drinking behavior and to surround themselves with friends who abused alcohol. Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than four or five drinks in a single session - a span of about two hours.

I marked up this book as I was reading, underlined and marked passages with arrows and brackets and happy faces and I read some passages aloud to my family. I think this will be a good book to come back to. As my children get older there will be things that resonate on a different level than they do now.

Thank you to Harper Collins publishing and the Amazon Vine program for a free advanced reader copy, given in exchange for an honest review of the book.
Profile Image for QOH.
483 reviews21 followers
July 9, 2017
You have to work pretty hard to screw up a pop science book, but this fails on all fronts: basic science (HS stuff) presented as new and complicated, useless anecdotes (one reads books by neurologists for science, not for crap like "I received an email from a parent who said their child was going crazy"), screaming privilege (I'm guessing not all readers know that feeling when you have a lesson with a tennis or golf pro and disappoint yourself when you play the next day), and a condescending authorial voice. (Imagine a cross between the Church Lady and Tipper Gore circa 1990, and you've got it down.)
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 4 books313 followers
March 8, 2019
Completely terrifying. The author clearly details teens' increased susceptibility to tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hard core drugs, stress, gambling, internet addiction, and concussion. In addition, she explains how neurological consequences of these dangers are magnified for adolescents. Basically, it's a wonder any of us lived into our twenties. My cortisol levels reached unhealthy levels while reading. Thank god I'm not pregnant, as I would have permanently damaged my fetus's brain, as Jensen helpfully points out.
Profile Image for عمر الحمادي.
Author 6 books596 followers
August 27, 2016
كتاب مهم في فهم عقلية المراهق... يجب أن لا يخلو بيت فيه مراهق من هذا الكتاب... حيث سيكتشف الأبوان أن مالا يعجبهما في تصرفات ابنهما المراهق ناتج عن اختلافات بيولوجية في ذهنه وأذهانهم
11 reviews2 followers
August 13, 2017
رحلة جميلة تأخذنا د.فرنسيس جينسين ،وهي عالمة في علم الأعصاب، فيها إلى عقل المراهقين وما هي التفاعلات التي تحدث فيه
تتلخص فكرة الكتب برأيي أن عقل المراهق لم يكتمل بعد وتصرفاته قد تبدو غير منطقية نتيجة لعدم اكتمال الروابط بين أجزاء الدماغ

وتروي لنا د.جينسين عدة قصص لمراهقين وتصرفاتهم الحمقاء والإجرامية أحيانا والتي بالطبع تكون لعدم اكتمال المخ بالاضافة إلى البيئة السيئة

وتقدم في كتابها عدة نصائح للآباء والتربويين والمراهقين أنفسهم عن كيفية التعامل معهم ، منها:
"كن متسامحا مع أخطاء ابنك المراهق، لكن احرص على الحديث معه حول أخطائه"
"المواقع الإلكترونية ووسائل التوصل الاجتماعي مكان مهم للتواصل مع المراهقي��، ويذكر آباءه أن أهم محادثاتهم مع أبنائهم المراهقين تمت من خلال تواصلهم عبر الرسائل النصية"

تمنيت أن الكتاب تطرق لموضوعات اكثر حول المراهقة وإعطاء بعض المواضيع حقها من التفصيل ، لكن ربما وكما تقول العالمة أن الذي نعلمه عن دماغ الإنسان والمراهق أقل بكثير مما لا نعلمه عنه.

مؤلفة الكتاب أمريكية وبطبيعة الحال ستجد الكتاب يركز بالغالب على الشاب الأمريكي ، فبالتالي قد يوجد اختلاف ثقافي بين المراهق الأمريكي وغيره من المراهقين

أوصي بهذا الكتاب لكل من أراد أن يعرف عن المراهقين أكثر من آباء أو معلمين أو حتى المراهقين أنفسهم
Profile Image for Chrissy Coonce.
24 reviews3 followers
January 14, 2020
As mentioned in many of the other 1 or 2 star reviews this book was not at all what I expected. As the mother of teen and tween daughters I was looking for actionable advice or helpful information in navigating modern day teen life and emotions. Instead what I received was sanctimonious preaching, scare tactics and a lot of privledge.

I understand that drugs, cigarettes and alcohol affect the brains of teenagers differently than adults but did we need to spend more than 50% of the book on that?

Not the way I wanted to start my 2020 reading challenge, I wish I was someone who could not finish a book because this was one better left unread.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
625 reviews82 followers
March 11, 2019
The Teenage Brain gave a broad picture of brain development during adolescents and young adults. As a parent, I find this book useful to a certain degree.

Different brain regions have different development schedule. A human brain is not fully wired until mid-twenties. Prefrontal cortex is the last developed region in the brain, hence teens' risk seeking behavior and impulsiveness. Teen's lack of thinking is rather "not able to pause and think" instead of "not having the ability of logical reasoning". Basically, if your teen does stupid things, it's because they are the victim of their brain. However, “Well, no,” you have to say, “your brain is sometimes an explanation; it’s never an excuse.” Not sure how that will work out each time.

Teens' brain have stronger plasticity than adults. They are tuned to learning in same way as they are prone to pleasure seeking (hence addiction). The author explained how each substance, such as alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and hard drugs, damage brains and teenage brains in their own different ways. What she says is that, as a parent, you really must get involved in your teen's life. You must remain constant vigilant of what your teen is doing at school, with his friends and online. Of course, you must not make yourself an enemy of your child, otherwise you lose connection completely. Just go and figure out by yourself how to actually do it, and this book does not come with magic spells.

The book has limited information, let alone hands-on advice, for disadvantaged families. In one or two occasions, I find the author's anecdotes off-putting.

Some quotes:

"Try not to focus on winning the battle when you should be winning the war"

“It’s important to remember that even though their brains are learning at peak efficiency, much else is inefficient, including attention, self-discipline, task completion, and emotions. So the mantra “one thing at a time” is useful to repeat to yourself. Try not to overwhelm your teenagers with instructions.”

September 27, 2015
Terrifying. While the subtitle touts the book as a "survival guide" to teenagers, in reality the author gives very little advice other than "be involved." More than half of the book is devoted to discussing how teenagers' brains are more susceptible to addiction than adults' brains and then Ms. Jensen goes into detail about all the ways teenagers can ruin their lives forever: drugs, alcohol, sex/pornography, video games, etc.

There's little help offered--"be involved" is hardly new advice. The message is more of a "scared straight" strategy for parents to not support risky experimentation from their teenagers.
44 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2021
This is perhaps the worst parenting book I've ever read. This book is not just bad; this book is dangerous. It is dangerous because it is filled with terrible advice misleadingly wrapped up in the cloak of scientific certainty. While Jensen may be a brilliant neuroscientist this book is filled with meaningless anecdotes intended to scare parents, wildly misguided parenting advice that is not based on neuroscience or any science (except maybe reductive behaviorism), and an unhealthy focus on making kids successful in hyper-competitive academic environments instead of helping kids develop a strong moral fiber and a healthy approach to life.

Throughout the book she keeps using correlations (and occasionally causal arguments) to exaggerate risks of various threats (listed by chapter) to justify micromanaging and controlling behavior over teens. Only at the end of chapter 16, despite the writing in much of the book, she finally acknowledges that “Making judgments, even scientific judgments, based on what is available and known is at best foolhardy and at worst dangerous. That is certainly the case when it comes to pointing to objective evidence for a causal relationship between neuromaturity and real-world activity, especially criminal behavior.” She (correctly) does so in reference to the aggressive approach to trying and sentencing young people in the criminal justice system.

Later, on the same page (p. 276), she quotes Jay Giedd, “Behavior in adolescence, and across the lifespan, is a function of multiple interactive influences including experience, parenting, socioeconomic status, individual agency and self-efficacy, nutrition, culture, psychological well-being, the physical and built environments, and social relationships and interactions.”

Her willingness to acknowledge the circular and reinforcing impacts of environmental influences coupled with the developing brain and mind when it comes to criminal justice considerations; while being hyperfocused on direct correlation (hinting at causation) when it comes to the topics of other chapters and the impact on the brain (or IQ or school performance); leads me to believe that she knew that she was employing dishonest and disingenuous scare tactics throughout the book for the sake of selling books.

And it worked. It was a New York Times best seller. And it got stellar reviews. I guess a bunch of graphs of brain activity and scary stories, coupled with an author who is a neuroscientist who sent her kids to a $53k per child tuition private school, with one getting into a MD-PhD program and the other one getting into Harvard College, is enough to convince lots of people that this is somehow a great parenting book.

If I could give this book zero stars I would.
429 reviews11 followers
May 15, 2015
When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I saw a doctor who asked the ages of my older children and said, "You're going to have teenagers forever!" Even the thought of it clearly exhausted him, and I suspect he had at least one teenager himself.

That said, I love teenagers. I love them more now than when I was one because I was someone whose asynchronous brain development made me make different teenage mistakes than were typical -- and I didn't have much sympathy for the typical ones.

This book explains the science behind the teenage brain, with a strong focus on the differences between teen and adult brains. The author doesn't come across as a scold, but she definitely emphasizes why addictive substances are that much more of a problem for teens.

I don't think there's all that much how-to advice in the book, however, so the title is way off. This is not a "survival guide" so much as an explanation. I have been wavering between four and five stars for this book, and the misleading title kicks it down. That said, I think the main content of the book itself is great.

The best and most practical advice comes early on, where Dr. Jensen encourages parents to talk about other teens' tragic and near-tragic misadventures, and it's woven into the content. The worst part comes near the end, when you can tell that the book's editor said, "OK, now we need to come to some conclusions about What To Do." The most ludicrous tip, and I am paraphrasing: Embrace texting. If you don't know how to do it, ask your teenager.

I am actually completely happy without helpful prescriptive advice. The information on its own makes the book worth it.
Profile Image for Yousif Al Zeera.
232 reviews79 followers
November 20, 2019
Eye-opening book on the teenage brain, and human brains generally. It will downright change the way we view teenagers and kids. An absolute 'paradigm-shifter’.

Frances, a neurologist herself, showcases the scientific evidence on how teenage brains are substantially different than adult brains in many ways. Putting time to understand the differences will place both adults and teenagers in a better position to acknowledge and reconcile the differences and how things are viewed by both of them.

Sleep, taking risks, tobacco, alcohol, pot, drugs, stress, mental illness, digital invasion, gender matters, sports and concussions, crime and punishment (very interesting section for lawyers) and more are dissected in this book, giving a more comprehensive view of the relationship and effect of such things on the teenage brains compared to adults.

Highly recommended, though there will often be some neurological terminologies throughout the book that might put some people off especially the ones who can't withstand reading (or listening) to the lovely brainy words like frontal lobes, neocortex, grey matter, white matter, thalamus, hippocampus, basal ganglia, amygdala, limbic system and other stuff of the brain.
Profile Image for Royale.
187 reviews16 followers
January 23, 2015
Lots of great information, but short on practical strategies.
Profile Image for Simon.
861 reviews7 followers
November 8, 2016
A bit too sciency for my taste, but I learned a lot about the my students.
Profile Image for Tracy.
2,243 reviews11 followers
June 26, 2016
A friend recommended this book and I'm so glad that she did. Yes, I knew that teenagers' brains developed slower than parents would like, but I didn't know how exactly and which parts developed first. After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of the development of the teenaged brain.
I liked the fact that she covered what is involved as a child becomes a teenager not only with the brain, but a bit about the hormonal changes, too. She then goes on to discuss learning; sleep; risk taking; drugs, alcohol and smoking; stress; mental illness; digital "invasions"; gender; and concussions. Each section was written so that the average parent could understand the importance of that section and gave ammunition to use in discussing why that particular section was important. I found the section on sleep to be really interesting and also the section on gender. The concussion section was one that I wish I wasn't familiar with, but was glad that she addressed it.
If you have teenagers or will have teenagers soon, you really should read this book.
Profile Image for Johnathan.
120 reviews13 followers
October 13, 2019
Excellently written outline of how the teenage brain is not fully developed, has a higher propensity for addiction and risk taking, and has very high plasticity. When you combine these elements it leads to many complications for both adolescents and the parents that raise and guide them. Jensen carefully outlines how these factors present both opportunities and challenges related to decision making, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, technology, risky behavior, sexuality, mental illness, and crime. Jensen presents advice drawn from her scientific background as a neuroscientist as well as her experience as a parent. I recommend this book for every parent, teacher, youth worker, and anyone else that works regularly with youth. The perspective this book gives us extremely valuable.
Profile Image for Elizabeth☮ .
1,497 reviews11 followers
December 6, 2016
This is a good primer on the brain and its development through adolescence.

There are chapters on sleep, stress, alcohol, sports and other relevant topics to navigating the world of being a teenager. The illustrations help the reader better comprehend the material.

There is a lot of work cited based on animal experiments which is sometimes difficult to swallow. If you are sensitive to this issue, be aware. There isn't anything too graphic, but it is where a lot of the research thrives.

This will help me better understand the teens I teach and why they can't help being impulsive or tired or indecisive.
Profile Image for Tracy.
1,361 reviews4 followers
November 3, 2021
I gave this three stars but that might be a stretch for me. Honestly I DNF’d this book 70% in because I just didn’t like it. Some of the info is truly helpful and interesting. But the author and her writing style was not to my taste. I also think that if you are hoping for more info on how to understand teenagers from a psychological standpoint this is NOT the book for you. This is primarily neurological info.
Profile Image for Marwa.
64 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2017
It's very scientific, but it's an eye opener .. it's useful specially with this generation teenagers who like to have the answers for "whys" when you want to convince them why they should or shouldn't do the thing. Highly recommended ❤️
Profile Image for Jessica.
162 reviews6 followers
March 10, 2015
Parents and teachers: read this book and say it with me, "It's not personal; it's just adolescence!"
Profile Image for Anne-marie.
242 reviews
February 19, 2022
In seeking to understand my own children, this book has proven immensely insightful. The first part is quite scientific and explains the biology and chemistry of the brain and all its components, while simultaneously taking the reader through the brain’s development cycle from inception up to the teenage years. Against this neuroscientific backdrop, the book then takes a chapter on key topics that impact teenagers including sleep, mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, sports concussion and the brilliantly entitled “The digital invasion of the teenage brain”.

It starts with a great backstory on emergence of “the teenager”, post 1929 (the Great Depression), as this was the era that finally put an end to centuries of child labor and ultimately resulted in children staying longer in school en masse. The teenage cultural group had finally evolved with its own belief system, interests, and dress-codes. I never realized the term teenager was only first coined in 1941!

It is explained now both nature and nurture (one’s environment) can stimulate brain preferences, growth, and response trajectories. The author uses excellent analogies to simplify the complexity of how the brain works. There chapter on sleep is excellent and explains why teens are 'owls'. An adolescent’s circadian rhythm differs biologically, yet they live in world that does not accommodate this. They must get up early like adults and hence end up sleep deprived, and jet lagged from sleeping too late and rising too early.

In essence, she explains that what makes adolescence so difficult is that much of teenager’s response to the world is driven by emotion, rather than reason, mainly because the frontal lobes (the ‘control panel’ of the brain) are not fully developed until early adulthood. Their fight or flight response activates both faster, and more frequently, resulting in impulsive outcomes. The chapter on the impact of technology is excellent and explains neurologically speaking, how technology has a similar impact on the teenage brain as [alcohol or drug] addiction, due to the thrill factor. When teenagers describe being deprived of technology, they use the same language as when describing substance abuse. Also interesting was the piece on multi-tasking. Teenagers claim they can multi-task (for example, study while watching videos) and to my surprise, the author acknowledges it is possible for teens to multitask, but scientifically it just takes longer for the knowledge to imprint.

I highly recommend this book for parents seeking insights into their teenage behaviors. Chapters can be read as stand alone though, it is helpful to have read the scientific background provided in the initial chapters. I also found myself discussing aspects of this book with my children as I was reading it, though it seems I found it far more fascinating that they did - I have the context of adulthood, which they don't, yet.
16 reviews
October 14, 2022
This was a book I read, I am unsure the amount of regret I feel. The book was aimed at parents but was surprisingly insightful, it taught me that I don't like neurology and that authors need to fact check books accurately. Their were a couple outright lies for one the author claimed that smoking joints of pot regularly leads to schizophrenia, I googled it, it is actually advanced paternal age at time of birth and genetics. It is true that those who are schizophrenics are more likely to have smoked pot in there youth but in actuality that is more likely used as a pre diagnosis coping strategy than a cause for the condition. Regardless I am still glad I read it, the book explored the neurology of addiction and how teenagers are SOOOO much more susceptible to it. Due to the book being written in 2015 it didn't acknowledge the topics of mental health but the neurology of addiction can definitely be applied to contemporary applications.
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