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Research indicates that a succession of hormonal changes in the brain during puberty makes teenagers far more likely to display such behaviour.

The changes start when the hypothalamus releases a protein called kisspeptin, which triggers the pituitary gland to release testosterone, estrogen and progesterone – the hormones that stimulate the changes we recognise in puberty.  

As well as development in the body – the formation of breasts, testes and so on – a lot of less obvious changes are taking place in the brain.
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In addition, the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that controls risk assessment and planning ahead – is not fully developed yet in the teenage years.

This means that the part of their brain that is supposed to stop them acting on this attraction is not up to the job.

Teenagers also put far more value in peer acceptance than adults do – not being accepted among other people their age can call them to have intense feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.

Scientists have pinpointed an evolutionary reason for this – it is important for adolescents to engage with people other than their family after reaching sexual maturity in order to reduce inbreeding and encourage genetic diversity.

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The high levels of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone during puberty can cause a person to react more strongly to emotionally loaded content - like a sad song, for example.

It also explains why teenagers are more likely to run into problems at school and social lives.

Heightened levels of these hormones in the brain can also make a person more likely to take risks, which is why teenagers sometimes engage in more dangerous and risky behaviours than adults.
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