The Adolescent Brain and the Global Fight Against Adolescent Motherhood

Posted by Share-Net NL on October 12, 2015 at 5:28 am

Fertile bodies, immature brains?: A genealogical critique of neuroscientific claims regarding the adolescent brain and of the global fight against adolescent motherhood

Social Science & Medicine. Volume 143, October 2015, Pages 255–261. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.063

  • Identifies antecedents to neuroscientific claims regarding the adolescent brain.
  • Identifies continuities and shifts in understandings of ‘adolescence’.
  • Identifies a shift in how ‘psy’ experts discussed ‘adolescent unwed mothers’.



This article presents a critique of neuroscientific claims regarding the adolescent brain and the suggestion that adolescent motherhood disrupts the healthy development of the mother and her child. It does so by presenting a genealogical investigation of the conceptualisation of ‘adolescence’ in Western psychology and the emergence of the problematization of ‘adolescent motherhood’. This examination reveals that antecedents to neuroscientific claims regarding adolescent immaturity, impulsivity and instability were articulated by psychologists throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, up until the 1960s there was no problematization of ‘adolescent motherhood’ per se and adolescent mothers were only discussed as part of the concern with ‘unwed mothers’. Exploring the continuities and shifts in assertions regarding adolescence, this article highlights the complex history of some of the notions currently found in neuroscience. In doing so it aims to contribute to a growing body of critical literature questioning the universality of neuroscientific findings.


  • Adolescent brain;
  • Neuroscience;
  • Genealogy;
  • Psychology;
  • Adolescent motherhood
Author: Ofra Koffman
Share this: