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The Adolescent Brain: new research and its implications for young people transitioning from foster care

September 24, 2011 Comments off

The Adolescent Brain: new research and its implications for young people transitioning from foster care (PDF)
Source: Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative

Many disciplines have contributed to the knowledge base regarding what enables young people in foster care to succeed. Now, neuroscience has added critical data to that base by revealing that in adolescence, the brain experiences a period of major development comparable to that of early childhood.

Among the implications of the new data is this: Adolescents must take on distinct developmental tasks in order to move through emerging adulthood and become healthy, connected, and productive adults—and young people in foster care often lack the supports needed to complete these tasks.

Unlike younger children in foster care, for whom safety and protection are the greatest need, older youth are in the process of developing greater autonomy and practicing adult roles and responsibilities. It is during adolescence and early adulthood that we develop a personal sense of identity, establish emotional and psychological independence, establish adult vocational goals, learn to manage sexuality and sexual identity, adopt a personal value system, and develop increased impulse control and behavioral maturity. Chemical changes in the brain that prime adolescents for risk-taking present rich opportunities for them to learn from experience and mistakes and, with adult support, gain greater self-regulation, coping, and resiliency skills.

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