Steve Debenport

Teen Brains Don't Even Process Mothers' Criticism, Scientists Discover

Sorry, Mom...did you say something?

After we graduate and leave home, we tend to realize that our parents were right about a shocking amount of stuff -- not everything (M-rated video games didn't make you into a sociopath after all), but enough for you to realize their worldview wasn't formed in a vacuum; they've just had more exposure to how the crappy adult world works and its many pitfalls.

Until then, however, it seems like Mom and Dad's opinions aren't even worth listening to. This disconnect has caused family quarrels for ages. And now there's a scientific explanation.

Turns out, teenagers' brains "shut down social processing" when parents give them negative feedback, according to neuroscientists from Harvard, Pitt and UC Berkeley. The researchers studied the brain activity of adolescents who listened to recordings of their mothers lecturing them about topics such as quick tempers and putting shoes away after taking them off.

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The results? "[Y]outh showed increased brain activity" in emotional regions of the brain, "but decreased activity in...social cognitive networks" and "perspective taking." In other words: You get mad and don't consider your parent's point of view, because it's not the end of the world if the laundry doesn't get washed this second, Mommmmm.

Interestingly, teenagers who get positive feedback are more likely to listen to criticism. As the researchers explain, the findings "may provide insights into the ways that parental feedback can be modified to be more helpful to behavior and development in youth."

So maybe parents need to focus on what teens are doing right -- not only what they're doing wrong -- and maybe teens need to remember that parents are just former teens who probably wish they'd listened to a few of their parents' speeches about "when I was your age..."