As parents and as loved ones, it’s always plagued our minds why teens seem susceptible to taking risks. Many times, it’s kept us up at night, thinking about worst case scenarios while our kids are on their way to a night of partying.
Most parents would rather keep them inside the house and endure their children’s hatred. Given the number of drunkdriving incidents in the United States everyyear, they think it’s a fair sacrifice for the sleepless nights of endless worrying. Because kids, it seems, gravitate towards reckless behavior.
According to neurobiology, during early to middle adolescence, a chemical substance called dopamine is at its most heightened level of activity, compared to any other stage in someone’s life. This substance is a neurotransmitter responsible for the “pleasure and reward” circuit of the brain. This makes most things especially “pleasurable” during this stage in life, making teens prone to seeking out and exploring dangerous and new experiences.
A teenager derives so much pleasure from the thrill of risky acts, like engaging in unprotected sex, driving beyond the speed limit and drinking alcohol, that second thoughts don’t even enter their mind. Psychologists say kids during this stage still have a very weak impulse control. They’re sensation-seeking creatures who can easily commit mistakes from the lack of regard for their safety and health.
Reception to alcohol
The structure of our brain and makeup of our bodies have an effect on how we respond to alcohol. Women, for example, are likelier to develop dependency to alcohol due to their water-to-mass ratio. Meanwhile adolescents respond differently to alcohol than adults, because their brain is still developing, in contrast to the fully-developed brain.
Adolescents are more awake and more active, but every bit as impaired. This implies even in moments of intoxication, when their mind is not functioning properly, their bodies are more predisposed to doing reckless things, like drunkdriving.
In most adults, a protective impulse kicks in they’ve had too much to drink, an impulse absent in teenagers.
Advice for parents
Contrary to many opinions, preaching is seldom effective. If you really want your kids to practice safe driving even in your absence, make them aware of the dangers if they do otherwise. Moreover, make them understand that you, as a parent, have expectations. Failing to meet these expectations will result in many unpleasant consequences. In effective parenting, communication is always key.
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