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Not all teens will turn into Kevin clones

Changes occurring in the brains of young teenagers are not all geared to creating 'Kevin' clones, say scientists.

Some actively drive adolescents towards being responsible and well-behaved.

Kevin, the straggly-haired creation of comedian Harry Enfield, has come to epitomise the angst-ridden and rebellious adolescent who drives his parents to distraction.

Scientists have learned that rewiring in the brains of 13 and 14-year-old teenagers can play havoc with their emotions and social skills.

Youngsters around the time of puberty are notoriously angry, argumentative and sullen -- and more likely to be influenced by their friends than their parents.

But that is not the whole story, according to new brain research reported today in the journal Neuron.

A study found that just when children are most tempted to misbehave, certain parts of their brains are developing in ways designed to keep them out of trouble.

Researchers carried out functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans on 24 teenagers when they were 10-years-old and again at the age of 13.

On each occasion, they were shown photos of neutral, angry, fearful, happy and sad faces.

US study leader Professor Jennifer Pfeifer, from the University of Oregon, said: "This is a complex point, because people tend to think of adolescence as the time when teenagers are really susceptible to peer pressure.

"That is the case, but in addition to that added susceptibility they are also improving their ability to resist it. It's just that peer pressure is increasing because they spend a lot more time with peers during this time and less time with family. So it is a good thing that resistance to such influences is actually strengthening in their brains."

hnews@herald.ie