Impulsive Teens Gain Self-Control in Their Twenties

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Originally posted on June 26, 2014.

The development of adolescent impulse control lags sensation-seeking.  That’s the bottom line result of Laurence Steinberg’s report from surveys of more than 7000 American 12- to 24-year-olds, as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth and Children and Young Adults. Sensation-seeking behaviors peak in the mid teens, with impulse control developing more slowly as frontal lobes mature.


These trends fit nicely with data from longitudinal studies that, after following lives through time, find that most people become more conscientious, stable, agreeable, and self-confident in the years after adolescence.  The encouraging message for parents of 15-year-olds: you may be pleasantly surprised at your more self-controlled 25-year-old offspring to come.  And for courts, says Steinberg, the brain development and behavioral data together should inform decisions about the criminal sentencing of juveniles.

About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see