Outdated notions about young people’s brain development have changed.
Here’s a summary of what we now know from Childtrends.
Outdated notion: Brains develop largely during the first few years of life, without much change in later years.
What we now know: Brains evolve over time. Some very specific abilities must develop within what we currently believe are strict windows of opportunity, but most are turning out to be more flexible than previously thought. In fact, brains are constantly developing and changing, even into old age, and “time windows” are different among different individuals.
Brains and trauma
Outdated notion: Brain development and functioning can only be disrupted by physical trauma.
What we now know: Physical trauma is disruptive, but emotional trauma and stress can also disrupt brain development. Some brain pathways are more vulnerable to the effects of stress than others, and this changes with age.
Brains and recovery/repair
Outdated notion: Once disruption occurs, the brain has a very limited capacity to recover, and that capacity is mainly restricted to early childhood.
What we now know: While things like age, sex, and prior experience can influence how well the brain recovers from trauma, all individuals at all ages can adapt or improve given appropriate immediate and long-term interventions.
Brains and genetics
Outdated notion: The role your DNA plays in brain development and functioning is set in stone.
What we now know: The way DNA influences brain development and functioning is influenced by life experiences and can change over time – in every single cell in your brain