Maternal Nagging Makes Teens Turn Into Awful People...But It's Actually Their Brains' Fault

To everyone who had to deal with terrible teenage cousins this Thanksgiving, it turns out that it's not their fault that they're insufferable, at least according to science. Apparently, some of teens' more...delightful...behavior is all in their brains. They just can't help it, poor dears.

Of course, there is a whole laundry list of teenage behaviors that are obnoxious enough to drive any parent up the wall — even if the parent in question is the leader of the free world. But according to a new study, teens' overly dramatic reactions to maternal nagging is just the way their brains are wired. All that sighing and eye rolling and complaining over being asked to fold your own clothes is actually the fault of a developing brain rather than just being ungrateful.

In the study, researchers played two 30 second audio clips of mothers nagging to 32 teens while their brains were scanned in a lab. And in an incredibly meta moment, at least one of the audio clips was the sound of a mother nagging her child about...how often she needed to nag her child. Take a look at this sample audio:

"One thing that bothers me about you is that you get upset over minor issues. I could tell you to take your shoes from downstairs. You'll get mad that you have to pick them up and actually walk upstairs and put them in your room."

Nag, nag, nag. God, Mom!

But as it turns out, while examining the brain scans, scientists noticed a few interesting things. First, the clips activated the brain's limbic system, a region associated with negative emotions — which was really to be expected, I suppose. But two other regions the scientists focused on — the prefrontal cortex (which is involved in regulating emotion) and the junction of the temporal and parietal lobes (which helps us understand other people's perspectives) — were seemingly not activated at all.

In other words, teen brains get upset at parental criticism, but don't do anything to help their owners regulate those feelings or to try to understand why their parents are forcing them to endure such horrible tortures.

"These results suggest that youth may respond to maternal criticism with increased emotional reactivity but decreased cognitive control and social cognitive processing," the researchers write in the study, adding that more information on the subject could lead to new strategies for dealing with teenage behavior that will be more informed and ultimately "more helpful to behavior and development in youth."

All which sounds awesome of course — it's always nice when we can thwart teens by giving them good parents and all that — but I'm not sure even science is a match for the invincible, impervious force that is teen disdain. But it might be fun to root for them as they try.

Images: Giphy (2)