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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  3,398 ratings  ·  480 reviews
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 u
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Harper (first published August 12th 2014)
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Richard Perhaps because "society" doesn't exist as an individual entity, but instead is a crazy collection of individuals and groups with differing opinions a…morePerhaps because "society" doesn't exist as an individual entity, but instead is a crazy collection of individuals and groups with differing opinions about how to arrive at intelligent and wise conclusions — and that sometimes that is precisely what happens. Take a look at the names on this amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court, and you'll find the author's name.

This case did use the emerging evidence of cognitive research, and changed the criminal justice system in a significant way, even if there are still many other changes to be made. That's how progress happens on big and highly contested social issues.(less)

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Christopher Barry
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 Teen
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 ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
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 s ...more
Jennifer Heise
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 p
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it
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 fascin ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 suc
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 th
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 ...more
Katie Bruell
Mar 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Camelia Rose
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 reason
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 e
Kara of BookishBytes
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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 me
Jul 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
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 aut ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Lots of great information, but short on practical strategies.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit too sciency for my taste, but I learned a lot about the my students.
Yousif Al Zeera
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.

Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-for-nerds
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
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 ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2017 marked it as to-read
The author was interviewed on the KQED Forum show: Neuroscientist Explores the Contradictions of the Teen Brain . ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ❤️ ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Parents and teachers: read this book and say it with me, "It's not personal; it's just adolescence!" ...more
Kayla Murphy
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it
It was definitely about the brain
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review copy provided by Harper Collins Publishers NZ via Booksellers NZ.
The teenage brain? What sort of word trickery is that? Well, all logic tells you there is a brain of course, nestling inside the head of that child of yours, but it is not a brain, Jim, as we know it. And that is the totally bizarre thing about teenagers - after all we were all one once angst ridden, tormented, self absorbed, idealistic, misunderstood, unloved - so you think we would have no problem some years down the track
Rachel Terry
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
I love a good how-to parenting book, but this one offers more than the garden variety, and that's what makes it so compelling and helpful. Jensen raised two boys, and they've successfully lived through their teenage and young adult years, so that makes her a reliable source already. But she's also a brain researchers and clinician, and she has the scientific method in her hip pocket at all times, so this makes her doubly reliable in my book.

What I found to be really helpful is learning about wha
Jami Allen
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Teenage Brain by Frances Jensen grabbed my attention right away. Who doesn’t want to gain wisdom about the most baffling time of life? As a high school teacher, it’s important for me to understand my students in order to best connect with and teach them. This book helped me recognize how to do this on a different level. Since the author is both a neurologist and the mother of two boys who have been through the teenage years, she offers both insight as well as practical advice on how to handl ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Powell's
Frances Jensen (no relation) is a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. She explains that teenagers’ brains are still developing, increasing white matter connections between the lobes until the mid-20s. Many typically teen behaviors – mood swings, impulsive actions, lack of foresight – are biologically based, and they are not related to hormones so much as the incomplete structure of the brain. Individual chapters address sleep, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, risk-taking, etc, ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
This was not entirely what expected. I expected something to help parents learn how to deal with their teens on an everyday basis. Why are they moody, how you can respond, how to deal with disrespect, etc. It has elements of those things, but it focuses on discrete issues.

It starts out with information about brain development that is interesting. A more scientific explanation than what we are already hearing out there - that teens' brains are very much still evolving and are far from adult brai
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While most of us understand the basics of puberty and the hormones that kick it into gear, this book delves into the biological details of this time of life. By presenting those particulars of brain chemistry and development, Jensen gives readers a better understanding of WHY teens and young adults behave the way they do.

We spend so much time learning about infant and toddler development in order to help our children be the best they can be, we neglect this second highly impressionable developm
Dr Jensen's braggadocious opening chapter on her career and credentials, her super successful sons etc got on my nerves, and I almost ditched the book before I started, but I'm glad I persevered because once she focuses on the issues at hand (Teenagers!! WTH?!) she talks a lot of sense. Perhaps she felt the need to establish herself to the reader as an author with a professional as well as a personal successful track record.

I managed to get past the smug anecdotes and take from the book what I
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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.

News & Interviews

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
44 likes · 17 comments
“Well, no,” you have to say, “your brain is sometimes an explanation; it’s never an excuse.” 6 likes
“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.” 4 likes
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