9 May 2022

Teenagers really are ignoring you

RedHerring The Back Page

Contempt isn’t just written on their face, it’s on their brain scan.


The transformation from adoring primary-school kid to teenage monster can be a scary one for many parents. 

It can seem like your child isn’t taking in anything you are saying.

That’s probably because they aren’t. 

A US study published in the Journal of Neuroscience recently looked at how children and teenagers responded to the sound of voices.

When the sound of their mother’s voice was played to children aged 12 and under, the brain scans lit up, showing the reward centres of the brain were triggered.

By contrast, children aged 13 and over showed a spark of brain activity in response to voices in general. It didn’t matter if this voice was new or remembered. 

“The social world of young children primarily revolves around parents and caregivers, who play a key role in guiding children’s social and cognitive development,” the researchers explained.

“However, a hallmark of adolescence is a shift in orientation towards nonfamilial social targets, an adaptive process that prepares adolescents for their independence.”

So, teenagers are a lost cause. 

But in good science news, researchers from the Netherlands have found that toddlers can be bribed to eat their vegetables. 

The study brought out the mercenary traits of small humans by giving them non-edible prizes for trying new vegetables. 

A group of 600 kids between the ages of one and four were split into a control group, a group that got exposed to new veggies but didn’t get a reward, and a group that got the opportunity to try new greens and got a sticker or a toy crown prize for trying them. 

The kids that got the reward were more likely to try more veggies than the other two groups. It wasn’t a big effect (seven veggies instead of five or six) but the researchers called it a win. 

I guess trying to get toddlers to do anything is pretty hard, so props to them for trying.

If you still want kids after reading this, send felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au story tips.