The teenage mind is often responsible for reckless actions


Adolescents tend to make questionable decisions, and while some people may naturally act more absent-mindedly, a lot of the blame can be attributed to the underdeveloped adolescent brain.

Studies have shown that the average brain doesn’t fully develop until a person’s mid-twenties, so many parts of an adolescent brain don’t work as well as an adult’s brain.

“The biggest difference between the adolescent and adult brain is the prefrontal cortex,” said Katherine Fan M.D., a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist. “(The) prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions to mature. It’s an area for problem solving, judgement, attention, motivation and executive functioning.”

The prefrontal cortex also affects how we feel.

“The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our personality development,” Natalie Elkin, an Advancement Placement Psychology teacher at GBHS, said. “It’s also responsible for our complex emotional states… things like guilt, shame, compassion, empathy (and) love.”

Because the prefrontal cortex hasn’t fully developed in young people, attributes like regulating emotions and having good judgement aren’t always present.

“Last year, I got in a fight and I made some comments that I should’ve thought about before I said them,” Tanvi Yadlapalli, a sophomore, said. “I was mad, and I wasn’t thinking things through. After the fight was over, I felt really stupid.”

Adolescents tend to do things without thinking it through for a number of reasons.

“Adolescents tend to take more risks and be more impulsive,” Judy Chang, a board certified sleep neurologist, said. “(Making them) more susceptible to external influences like peer pressure.” Juaquin Fabela, a Christian rapper and motivational speaker, experienced a lot of of these external influences as he was growing up.

“I was around an environment of drugs,” Fabela said. “My brother became a gang member and I got involved in drugs and alcohol and became a gang member because of him. (The problem) wasn’t necessarily as much peer pressure as it was cultural.”

For Fabela, all of the addictive behaviors around him ended up rubbing off on him.

“I was born into a family of drugs and alcohol,” Fabela said. “And it culturally and psychologically captured me and I became addicted. My toxic relationships (with my family) made me make bad decisions.”

As a kid, Fabela started experimenting with less severe forms of drugs, but as he grew older he took more chances.

“For me, my (addictions) was always growing,” Fabela said. “The stems and seeds turned into real marijuana, and the Budweiser can became a forty pack.”

As time went on, Fabela said that the drugs started to take a toll on his physical and social health.

“I ended up gaining tons of weight. I was kicked out of school for having marijuana on me,” Fabela said. “I didn’t have a good (friend) who said I should stop doing (drugs and alcohol). My relationship with my girlfriend, who was the mother of my daughter, (was bad) and ended with her taking my daughter away.”

Fortunately, as Fabela got older, he was able to make better choices.

“My decisions started developing as I got older,” Fabela said. “I started hanging out with people who discipled me, guided me and led me away from (my addictions). Sometimes I wanted to do wrong but they would show me the right way. ”

As a result, Fabela was able to abstain from his addictions and now helps others with their addictions by telling them his story.

“I was guided to do drugs and drink… and as I was guided towards bouncing my eyes towards girls and other (things), I had to be guided by other men to bounce my eyes away from those things,” Fabela said. “Sooner or later you become that new, reformed person.”