Why are teenagers less empathetic compared to adults?

in STEMGeeks2 years ago

During the last 3 months, I have been studying in class the teenage brain, specifically empathy, risk-taking, and the effects of drugs in the brain, and I have to say it has been amazing!

Today I am going to briefly explain (I have only learned this at school) to this community the reasons behind the scarce empathy in the adolescent brain.

Empathy is highly necessary for a number of reasons. First, it is important for you to be able to consider others—to know how they feel, what they desire, and why they behave the way they do. Second, researchers suggest that empathy motivates people to think for others and even to support one another. As a result, empathy will significantly enhance your relationships with family and friends.

Many parents think they are teaching their adolescents wrong since their son or daughter will never think of anyone but themselves, but now researchers have found a scientific explanation behind the behaviors of the teenage brain, which means parenting is not the one to blame.

During adolescence, the brain is undergoing major changes and it is also a prime time when the brain is developing cognitive skills for executive function or for self-control.

At the age of 13, girls are beginning to use “Cognitive empathy” and are able to take the mental ability to take other people’s perspectives. Instead, boys start to develop these skills at the age of 15. “Cognitive empathy” helps boys with problem-solving and avoiding problems. Between the ages of 13 and 16 boys show a temporary decline in affective empathy and the ability to respond to other people’s feelings, whereas girls’ affective empathy remains stable throughout all her adolescence.

It is shown that kids that develop cognitive and affective empathy form healthier relationships and argue less with their parents, this also helps them to design and work smoothly with other points of view and different backgrounds.

Affective empathy is directly linked to the limbic region of the brain, this part of the brain is in charge of regulating emotions. The limbic region starts to develop during infancy, children practice empathy by watching their parents and by experiencing watching other people respond warmly to their feelings.


During adolescence, the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of impulses, risk-taking, empathy, executive function, insight, planning, and decision making, is still developing. Myelin is fat in charge of insulating the brain’s axon and the one that speeds electrical impulses forward to the prefrontal cortex, but during adolescence, the brain is not fully myelinated, therefore empathy is not fully developed.

(Original Background information about my lab report)