As adolescents progress on their journey toward adulthood, with a body that is almost mature, the self-regulatory parts of their brains are still evolving. An earlier onset of puberty increases the window of vulnerability for today’s teens, making them more susceptible to take risks that effect their health and development over a longer period of time.1
Self-regulation is broadly described among psychologists as the management of emotions and motivation. It also involves directing and controlling behavior to meet the challenges of the environment and to work toward a conscious purpose. Self-regulation also encompasses affect regulation, which entails controlling the expression of intense emotions, impulse control, and delaying gratification.2
Such behavioral control requires a higher level of cognitive and executive functions. These functions reside in the prefrontal cortex, which matures independent of puberty and is still evolving and developing well into an individual’s mid twenties. During this period of development, adolescents should not be over-protected, but allowed to make mistakes and learn from their experiences and practice self-regulation. Parents and program staff can help adolescents through this period by listening, offering support, and guidance.