Mothers of teenagers may find this hard to digest, but scientists have come out with findings that puts down their 'raging hormones' and infamous behavior, to an unexpected chemical reaction; the effect of one specific hormone-THP.
The experiments, by Sheryl Smith, a physiologist at the State University of New York, offer the first physiological explanation for adolescent mood swings.
Smith experimented with mice by subjecting them to sources of stress, one of them being by keeping the mice in a very tiny cage for 45 minutes. She found that the reactions to stress in adolescent mice were markedly more and very different from the others. The cause,found by further experiments, was due to increased excitability brought about by the hormone THP.
Scientists say that the steroid THP acts on brain cells via molecular doorways known as receptors.
Scientists have found that the mechanism normally used by the brain to calm itself down in stressful situations appears to work in the opposite way in teenagers, making them actually more anxious.
When the brain senses a stressful situation, it reacts by switching on receptors, using a range of chemicals, including THP. In an adult or even a younger individual, THP would reduce anxiety.
During adolescence, mice have the usual receptors, but also extra-high levels of a second kind that brings an anxious, rather than calming, response when THP attaches to it, according to the researchers.
Says Smith, 'The parallel with humans is that in humans there are similar hormonal changes going on in puberty.
'So the beginning of puberty is a time when a lot of emotions and responses to stress are increased. It's nothing new that teenagers go through a difficult time.'
Smith says that while it is possible to block this particular effect of THP, it will require more research , but immediate results of the study could be in the better understanding of 'teenagehood' by parents.