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It's Not Me...It's My Brain...

Saadia Iqbal's picture

Hey youth of the world! The next time a teacher or parent scolds you for bad behavior, here's a good excuse: "I can't help it, it's just the way my brain is wired." 

According to a recent blog post by Emmanuel Jimenez, Human Development Director, in the World Bank’s East Asia Region:

"Scientists have found that, to some extent, young people can’t help themselves. Technological advances have allowed scientists to map brain impulses which they think partly determine behavior. Contrary to an earlier view that the brain stops developing at an early age, recent research shows that the frontal lobe, where most ‘executive’ decisions are made, is not fully connected to the rest of the brain until the mid-20s..."
Boys in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Yuri Mechitov / World Bank

In other words, people's brains aren't fully developed until they're in their mid-20s, and this affects their behavior and their ability to make smart choices. But wait! Before you get all excited and decide to make this your scapegoat until you hit your 30s--and before I get into trouble for encouraging irresponsible behavior--let me backtrack a bit. You know that with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility (with apologies to Spiderman). Now that you know this about your brain, you also know that your first impulse when making decisions may not always be the right one. So, it's a good idea to think long and hard when making certain choices, whether they relate to smoking, dropping out of school, or having unprotected sex.

Given that we all make poor choices at some point or other, it's important to find ways to help people get their lives back on track and recover from those choices. In his blog post, Emmanuel Jimenez talks about the need for governments to take action, and the value of "second-chance programs" that provide training and education, both in life skills and academic curricula, for out-of-school and out-of work youth. After all, especially in the case of youth--who have their whole lives ahead of them--it's never too late! 

Have you seen young people around you make poor choices in their lives? Were they able to turn things around and work it out? What helped, and what didn't help? Share your ideas and experiences!