23 Kids and the Law Changes in Adolescence Adolescence brings changes in the life of the child and the family. During teen years, adolescents seek greater independence and separation from their fami- lies in order to establish their own identity. Recent scientific advances show that adolescent brains really are different and that the brain continues to mature years after the body matures. The legal sys- tem has accepted this science and Massachusetts has recently extended the age of jurisdiction of the juvenile court to 18 (from 17) and eliminated juvenile life without parole. More changes will likely take place in the coming years. Dealing with these changes can be a real challenge to the family. At times it is difficult to sort out the difference between normal and abnormal behavior. What are common behaviors in teenagers? 1. Increased secretiveness and isolation. Teens seem more secretive or less willing to share information about daily activities. They may spend much more time alone, on the phone, or listening to music. A tendency to want more privacy is normal in adolescence. 2. Increased irritability. Teens may become increasingly angry. They may not like their parents’ questions or the things their parents say about their appearance, friends, drug use, or sexual behavior. Teens may argue more about house rules, curfew or other limitations and insist that their parents “just don’t understand.” 3. Confusion about goals for the future. Teen years are a time for experiment- ing.Teens may begin to question goals that seemed certain when they were younger. This doesn’t mean those goals have been given up forever. Changes in Adolescence 3 3