New knowledge about the adolescent brain: is it any use to parents?

Researchers are gathering new information about the adolescent brain, but is this any use for parents or practitioners?  In his presentation, John Coleman outlined some findings from the past five years of research, and explored how this can be made relevant to parents, carers and professionals. He described 'My Teen Brain', a training programme being developed by one local authority in England, and showed how this is making a difference to practitioners. He also suggested how this knowledge can be made useful to parents and carers.  He highlighted the following: 


  • In the teenage years, sometimes it can seem like 'loving relationships' go out the window
  • It is a time of major change in the brain, and these changes continue through to the early 20s.  The changes bring new skills but also deficits
  • Hormones also influence the brain, including dopamine and melatonin.  The latter influences sleep patterns to the extent that schools in one area of England are starting later in the day to see if that improves teenager performance
  • The brain is one element - gender, environment, ethnicity all contribute to adolescent development
  • My Teen Brain has been developed in Herefordshire.  Initially it was to train health visitors and others on attachment but is now available to parents of adolescents and is being very positively evaluated.  There is more information about this at:
  • It helps parents to know about teenage development; to see that it is a phase which will pass; and to understand that teenage behaviour is not about them - it is a process
  • It gives a framework - STAGE - for a process that will not last forever: parents are significant; it involves two-way communication (not just what parents want to know or say); authority; generation gap (growing up today is different); and emotion
  • It is helpful for parents to understand how big the changes are; that these affect behaviour; and that this is a particular, and temporary, stage in a young person's development


More information:


  • The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain, Sarah Jayne Blakemore's TED talk:
  • The Wellcome Trust, Neuroscience and education programme:


The main learning I will take away from this conference is: the link between brain development and teenage behaviour. Participant