It is all too often that we hear cases of teen behaviors resulting in physical fights leading to outcomes where the teens never expected or even desired. Including disability, death, prison time, all resulting in consequences that can  change their lives forever.
It is easier for adults to understand this, because adults make most decisions with their prefrontal cortex. The part of the brain responsible for decision making and understanding consequences and planning. This is the executive functioning part of the brain, that is not fully developed until the mid to late 20's. Among teens, this part of the brain is not yet functional. Instead teens utilize their limbic system to make decisions. The part of the brain responsible for strong emotions.  While there are other neurodevelopmental factors such as neurotransmitter changes that also affect risk taking and acting out behaviors, this part of the brain is where teens act out based on strong emotions and move straight into fight-or-flight. They lack understanding, negotiation, remembering consequences, etc.

Schools can have all the regulatory requirements, programs, disciplinary practices necessary, but yet with teens, once the limbic system is activated, these programs and even disciplinary practices are not a part of their decision making in that moment. Even if a small part is, the teen is often unable to think of consequences but rather survival and strong emotions. The teens "react" rather than "respond", resulting in unintended outcomes and consequences.  Regardless of who started what or why, this is unfortunately what happened among several teens at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware, that resulted in the death of a 16-year old sophomore.

As an injury and neuroepidemiologist, as well as a parent, it is sad to see how these teens lives are now changed forever. There is no reason for us adults to allow such behavior. Of course it is difficult especially if adults try to intervene in the moment. What teens need is help through skill building activities way before, so they do not get to this stage of behavior. It seems clear that adults understand the teens behavior, but they seem to lack the reasoning of why they behave this way and the teens difficulty in their inability to stop. It is all to often adults think only if we have stronger discipline and consequences then they will behave differently. In some cases this can work. But again those work when the teen limbic system has not been fully activated during fight-or-flight. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown how teens differ from adult developed brains. These studies in the lab have confirmed how a teen will increase risk taking even when they just think their peers can see them.
The teen developing brain is different. It is not that teens are not intelligent. Many teens that I have taught in schools are amazing. Of course they are young, unexperienced, not yet ready to conquer the world, but very knowledgeable and even eager with many interests. Which is something adults need to encourage and nurture.  However once the teen becomes emotional there is no more sanity. It is not that they are crazy.
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Time laps of the human brain between the ages of 5-20 years illustrating range of maturity
As adults, now that neuroscience studies have demonstrated why this occurs and have identified such differences between the adult and teen brain, injury and violence prevention programs, including discipline and even academic classes, need to be structured with the consideration of how the teen brain is developing. Studies have shown this can improve not only their behavior but also academic skills. It is not about adults telling teens they are bad, in trouble, or to threaten them that they are about to get into trouble, or yell at them saying were you not thinking? Remember they cannot think under their emotional condition at that moment. So no, they were not thinking. Of course, they are still responsible for their behavior.  

These developmental differences among the teen brain however are further magnified when children and teens have been exposed to child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, family dysfunction or even that parent who is just "a little controlling". These all can contribute to negative effects, making the reactions of the emotional brain  even more severe. Further, are those teens who have parents and caregivers who model poor, unhealthy and risky coping skills to them.

Adults, educators, administrators, policy makers, all need to consider the development of the teen brain  when planning prevention programs and even disciplinary practices. This is why I have studied and applied neuroscience to develop more strategic and effective public health programs. Without this neuroscience based component, teens will continue to act out, misbehave and never learn how to control their emotions. Resulting in another generation of adults who will eventually be in relationships raising children. And yet another generation of acting out behaviors, despite the best intentions of parents/caregivers, educators or policy makers. But such neuroscience based programs are not just helping to reducing emotional and violent behavior but also effective in reducing other risky behaviors observed throughout adolescence such as alcohol and drug use, early sexual behavior and thrill seeking. Overall without applying neuroscience based programs, we are not doing justice to teens. We have the understanding and evidence base neuroscience. So now it is time to develop programs more strategically with the teen brain in mind.
Parents, caregivers, school administrators and educators, and even probation now have programs available that include a neuroscience based approach. Pro Consumer Safety has developed Cognitive-Based Integrative (CBI) Programs to help provide parents and teens with the necessary skills so they can become empowered and have the ability practice healthy behaviors and skills to make positive choices in their life. 
Parents and caregivers often have the best intention for their children, but when the parent or caregiver are unsure or even not aware of how their own past upbringing and existing behaviors contribute to their child's development and behavior, the best is often not reached and the parents/caregiver get the opposite of what they want. Teens also want the best for themselves. While they are trying to learn, searching for their own interests they also have peer pressure, pressure trying to meet parental standards and even negative effects from media and marketing to children and teens. Again guiding the child or teen in a direction of unwanted territory. It is up to us, as adults, to provide them with the best approaches based on the emotional brain (limbic system) so they can make healthy decisions for a successful future, leading to more successful generations.

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