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New Study Finds Out Why Teenagers Start Ignoring Their Mothers

Changing Sleep Pattern Impacts on Teens
A new behavioural neuroscience study reveals that adolescents tune in less to their mothers’ voices, while they pay special attention to unfamiliar adult women.

Studies have found that as kids grow into teenagers, their brains begin to tune out the voices of their parents and tune into the more stimulating and unfamiliar voices of peers. Some teens seem oblivious to their parents’ requests. A new study from the Stanford School of Medicine gives us insight into why. 

A new behavioural neuroscience study reveals that adolescents tune in less to their mothers’ voices, while they pay special attention to unfamiliar adult women. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recorded conversations between moms and their teens. They found that overall, the mothers spoke about 60 per cent less than the teens, and that for girls, there was a marked shift in power dynamics between family discussions.


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While it’s not that they don’t want to clean their room or finish their homework, research has found that their brains are tuned into unfamiliar voices.

The new study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry finds that different brain regions have developed differently in adolescents. Researchers found that the medial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with more parental communication, is still developing during adolescence – a time when teens are increasingly attracted to unfamiliar voices and faces. Teenagers are tuned out by their parents—and it’s no wonder, as their brains don’t even notice Mom and Dad’s voices anymore. 

Adolescents are particularly tuned in to unfamiliar voices, the USC study has found. They want to spend time with their peers and are more receptive to their opinions.

Author Daniel Abrams, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences says that like an infant itself, an adolescent knows how to tune into “novel” voices. “As a teen, you don’t know you’re doing this. You’re just being you: You’ve got your friends and new companions and you want to spend time with them. Your mind is increasingly sensitive to and attracted to these unfamiliar voices,” he further adds to news coverage of Stanford Medicine. 

Although the teen years are a period of rapid social and cognitive development, teens have an unexpected level of interest in all voices. This increased interest can work against mothers in arguments, but it may also serve as an opportunity for influence. Rewiring of the teen brain may explain why kids with ADHD are more distracted by unfamiliar people, sounds. 

As adolescents get older, they show a greater interest in social stimuli and are more likely to respond to new faces. This is a normal phase in development that shows that their brains are maturing and they’re becoming independent thinkers.