My “core resources” are pages where I gather references, links and things I think will help you understand the topic and investigate the science on which I base my books and talks. You’ll find things to download, too. If you’ve been to a talk, I’ll have referred to research or articles or perhaps some handouts – you’ll find them somewhere on this page.
If you are looking for the articles I write for my site, on this and other topics, click here.
In the Resources section of my site, you will find information grouped into these topics: ADOLESCENT BRAINS AND LIVES, WELLBEING AND STRESS MANAGEMENT, the READING BRAIN, LIFE ONLINE and POSITIVELY TEENAGE.
These resources are only starting points. They represent a fraction of the research I’ve read and that I talk about when delivering a talk at a conference or school. If you’re interested in that, please see my Speaking area here.
MY CLASSROOM RESOURCES: see my quality materials, Brain Sticks and Stress Well for Schools. They provide a comprehensive way to teach wellbeing management to people of all ages.
Introducing this topic
I promote a clear, current, scientific and evidence-based understanding of what makes adolescence “special”, somewhat different from both childhood and adulthood. Adolescence means “becoming adult” and important changes enable that transition. It’s a natural, positive, temporary (!) and biologically-driven stage, which is, of course, affected by culture and environment but is not caused by them.
Of course, teenagers are also humans just like the rest of us. Also, of course, they are different from each other: some go through adolescence more easily than others. But the science is clear (and my work covers this): a set of experiences, behaviours, chemical and brain changes happen during this period, which are identifiable as natural features of adolescence, despite individual and cultural differences. We accept that certain things happen in brain development, making newborn babies different from toddlers, and toddlers different from nine year olds; similarly, development in adolescence, usually starting between 10 and 12, sees the brain mature into a state in which independence can eventually happen. It’s a good thing!
It helps to understand some of the details of this. It helps adults who live and work with teenagers and it helps teenagers themselves. My book, Blame My Brain, has been enormously popular in many countries around the world, both with adults and the teenagers for whom it was written.
I have had tremendous support from practising scientists and I thank them for their generosity.
“Nicola Morgan has that rare gift of being able to communicate science and make it fun. She brings the biology of the brain to the general reader in a way that will not only educate but entertain.” (Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, Department of Developmental Psychopathology, Cambridge University)
Further down this document, you will also find resources about Positively Teenage, my book to encourage people to approach adolescence without expecting problems
THE SPECIAL TEENAGE BRAIN
Starting points from me
My own book, Blame My Brain – the Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed, was first published in 2005 and has been updated twice since. It is widely read all over the world, not only by the teenagers it was written for, but by parents, teachers and other professionals. It is recommended on reading lists at universities and on teaching and social work courses, and by schools, and is one of the UK’s Books on Prescription, along with The Teenage Guide to Stress. Below is some of the research on which it is based. There is now an enormous body of work from around the world showing many ways in which brains change during adolescence.
Seminal work by key researchers
Jay Giedd, who first identified adolescent brain changes in the 1990s
- Interview: pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/interviews/giedd.html
- Another interview: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/media/2011/giedd.shtml
- “Brain development during childhood and adolescence – a longitudinal study”: https://web.stanford.edu/class/cs379c/archive/2013/suggested_reading_list/supplements/documents/GieddetalNN-99.pdf
- “The Teen Brain: Primed to Learn, Primed to Take Risks” http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2009/The_Teen_Brain__Primed_to_Learn,_Primed_to_Take_Risks/
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
- Her research is presented here: https://sites.google.com/site/blakemorelab/ See particularly: “Decision-making in the adolescent brain”
- There is an interview here: https://www.edge.org/conversation/sarah_jayne_blakemore-the-adolescent-brain
- Her TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_blakemore_the_mysterious_workings_of_the_adolescent_brain
GS Hall’s “Storm and Stress” theory https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201309/storming-adulthood – “Adolescence is a time of trauma and upheaval, storm and stress.”
- “Adolescent Storm and Stress, Reconsidered” – The abstract is fascinating and I agree with it: “ S. Hall’s (1904) view that adolescence is a period of heightened “storm and stress” is reconsidered in light of contemporary research. The author provides a brief history of the storm-and-stress view and examines 3 key aspects of this view: conflict with parents, mood disruptions, and risk behavior. In all 3 areas, evidence supports a modified storm-and-stress view that takes into account individual differences and cultural variations. Not all adolescents experience storm and stress, but storm and stress is more likely during adolescence than at other ages. Adolescent storm and stress tends to be lower in traditional cultures than in the West but may increase as globalization increases individualism. Similar issues apply to minority cultures in American society. Finally, although the general public is sometimes portrayed by scholars as having a stereotypical view of adolescent storm and stress, both scholars and the general public appear to support a modified storm-and-stress view.” http://webspace.pugetsound.edu/facultypages/cjones/adoldev/arnett.pdf
“How does the teenage brain work?” – Nature: faculty.vassar.edu/abbaird/about/press/articles/Nature2006.pdf
“Why parents may not matter as much as peers” – Scientific American: scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=parents-peers-children
Some articles on specific subjects
Sleep – See separate resource sheet below under the heading about Sleep
- Tests for matching emotion to expression: autismresearchcentre.com/arc_tests (Scroll down to “Eyes tests”)
- Emotion & risk-taking – “The Adolescent Brain” nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2475802/
- Greater sensitivity to reward/risk: com/releases/2004/10/041030131905.htm
- Teenagers take more risks but it’s not that they can’t foresee consequences: com/releases/2010/03/100324211144.htm
- Teenage decisions are often not decisions but impulsive: Meg Gerrard sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070531093830.htm
- “… in the presence of peers, the brain’s reward regions light up more than …” onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.14677687.2010.01035.x/abstract
- Dangers for teens: com/2006/07/04/health/04teen.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and: npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122765890
- S-J Blakemore on adolescent sense of self, embarrassment and peer influence: org/conversation/sarah_jayne_blakemore
- S-JB’s research re social embarrassment: google.com/site/blakemorelab/recent_publications
Some of my other writing on this topic
“How do I understand my teenage boy?” https://www.nicolamorgan.com/heartsong-blog/how-do-i-understand-my-teenage-boy/
A video interview (from 2011) in which I talk about the teenage brain at the (very noisy) Edinburgh Book Fest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=qGb0QOkeWhs&NR=1
UNDERSTANDING TEENAGE STRESS
(For strategies see the section of my website called WELLBEING and STRESS MANAGEMENT)
Are teenagers more stressed than adults? Impossible to say and silly to generalise. Adults have some different stresses – but we should have learnt good techniques so that we don’t suffer from stress. That is where my story comes in: I was a stress-suffering teenager and adult until well into my forties, losing time and energy to stress-related illnesses. I was not coping. Now, I’m exactly the same sensitive, introvert, perfectionist, ambitious, afraid-of-failure and anxiety-prone person, but I do not suffer from stress. I have stress but I don’t suffer from it: in fact, I welcome it. What happened? I learnt some things about stress, changed some behaviours and now have a strong system of preventing becoming ill. That’s what I want to share with people of all ages and I’m focusing on teenagers because I want them to have the knowledge that I lacked. See My Story for the details!
The Teenage Guide to Stress – written for teenagers but equally useful for adults; everything about stress, what it is, what your stresses might be, strategies for stress management for life
The Teenage Guide to Friends – written for teenagers but equally useful for adults; explaining why friendships and people are so important and yet so complicated; helping young people understand those around them and how to manage relationships and understand why they go wrong
My classroom resources, Brain Sticks, contain a section on teenage brain changes and this would be the ideal way to teach this to young people. Brain Sticks also include a mass of material about teenage wellbeing and stress and how to make our brains work best.
Stress Well for Schools is the perfect way for school to teach teenagers about stress.
Websites to help you
These sites have extensive, quality advice on a range of topics.
- Young Minds: youngminds.org.uk
- Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-parent-teen/201512/teenage-stress
- NSPCC: nspcc.org.uk
- Family Lives: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/teenagers/health-wellbeing/
- Kids Health: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/stress.html
TEENAGERS AND SLEEP
Teenagers need more sleep than adults, biologically. Everyone is a bit different and most of us manage on less than the ideal amount but the ideal amount for teenagers is 9¼ hours. And they probably won’t get it on a school night! If you are thinking, “Excellent: I can make them go to bed earlier,” think again: we can’t fall asleep for the night until our brain switches on the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy, and teenage melatonin tends to switch on late at night, as for adults. (Even worse, it tends not to switch off again so early in the morning, so teenagers are still very sleepy when it’s time to get up.)
Getting the best possible sleep is extremely important for almost every aspect of mental health and physical wellbeing, including performance and function at work/school. So, we have to do what we can to improve sleep – ours and theirs. Luckily, there are really simple things that will help and none of them involve taking medication. You’ll find the start of that good advice below, under Sleep Hygiene”. You will also find a Tips For Sleep sheet in the “Additional” part of my Resources section.
- Parent-set bedtimes help: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098947/
- Screen use: com/national/health-science/blue-light-from-electronics-disturbs-sleep-especially-for-teenagers/2014/08/29/3edd2726-27a7-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html
- Carskadon’s research: edu/xd/health/services/doernbecher/research-education/education/residency/upload/Sleep-in-Adolsescents-2011-Carskadon-PED-CLIN-NA.pdf
- Experiments with starting school later: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/23/health/la-he-school-time-20100823
- BBC sleep deprivation survey: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22209818
- Bad sleep affects health http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21572686
- Sleep deprived teenagers and Sleep Scotland http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-23811690
- Dreamland – Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David Randall
- Night School – by Richard Wiseman
- Why We Sleep – by Matthew Walker
NB Don’t forget my printable Tips for Sleep, in the Additional Resources
“SLEEP HYGIENE” describes what we should or shouldn’t do during the hour before we want to sleep. The brain’s powerful habit-forming mechanism teaches it that these stimuli are cues to becoming sleepy. So, during the hour before desired sleep, create a routine, the same every evening. It’s important for each teenager to create his/her own routine but here is a suggestion:
- Have light snack if hungry; avoid added sugar/caffeine; try herbal tea, especially with chamomile, passiflora, fennel, liquorice.
- Switch computer and all electronic gadgets off; put phone downstairs.
- Dim the lights and close curtains in bedroom.
- Play slow and soft music.
- Spend 5 minutes tidying room – hooray! Or at least tidy desk or clothes.
- Spend 5 minutes getting tomorrow’s schoolbag ready or make list.
- Have bath or shower – use lavender oil?** – and do teeth.
- Do anything else relaxing, eg stretching exercises/relaxation audio
- Get into bed
- Read (for pleasure, not work) and/or listen to slow, quiet music; writing is also fine.
**Smell is a strong brain trigger – the very act of smelling particular scent every night before sleep could trigger brain to feel sleepy.
The following have a negative impact on sleep, so avoid in the hour before bed:
- Caffeine in all forms, including normal tea + many fizzy drinks
- A heavy meal or a sugary snack
- Exercise that raises heart rate; fast music
- Anything with backlit display (mimics daylight) – PCs, TV, electronic games, DVDs, phones
- Phones – as well as the light, they bring messages likely to excite, not relax!
- Arguments/stress – another reason to remove phones/internet from bedroom.
POSITIVELY TEENAGE Resources
I have a special place for Positively Teenage resources. See here.
I hope you have found this selection of resources useful. Remember they are only starting points and there are many articles and resources in the rest of my website, my books and classroom resources. Do ask me to come and speak to your audience: See the Speaking section of my website.
Copyright © Nicola Morgan www.nicolamorgan.com