In the health behavior field, we often focus on what health professionals should help young people avoid, such as risk behaviors, rather than positive health behaviors that we could help them acquire. So, when I decided to start working on my PhD, and I wanted to study health promoting behaviors, I knew I would be met with some resistance or challenges from the more well established health behavior researchers. Fortunately, I ended up at Indiana University where this type of thinking is not only accepted, but encouraged within the Applied Health Science Department.
The adolescent period has traditionally been viewed as a time in life to ‘just survive’. Remember the three As of adolescence- Acne, Awkward, and Apathetic. However, due to advances in neuroscience, researchers are now singing a different tune when studying adolescents. Traditionally, it was thought that a majority of the development that occurs in the brain happens during early childhood. The neuroimaging studies from the last 10-15 years suggest otherwise (Giedd, 2008). Around age 12, the brain goes through another massive restructuring as it eliminates connections between brain cells that aren’t used and strengthens those that are. (more…)