New publication: “Being a Good External Prefrontal Lobe: parenting teenage brains”

New publication: “Being a Good External Prefrontal Lobe: parenting teenage brains”

In 2015 I presented at the conference ‘The Human Sciences After the Decade of the Brain’, at the University of Mainz. The conference has resulted in an edited volume by Elisabeth Hildt and Jon Leeflang, which has just been published by (the outrageously expensive) Elsevier. I reworked parts of my dissertation chapter on parenting teenage brains into a chapter for this volume.

See below for some info on the book and my abstract. If you can’t afford to buy the book – or don’t want to sponsor the predatory publishing monopoly – please let me know.

Book description

The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain brings together exciting new works that address today’s key challenges for a mutual interaction between cognitive neuroscience and the social sciences and humanities. Taking up the methodological and conceptual problems of choosing a neuroscience approach to disciplines such as philosophy, history, ethics and education, the book deepens discussions on a range of epistemological, historical, and sociological questions about the “neuro-turn” in the new millennium. The book’s three sections focus on (i) epistemological questions posed by neurobiologically informed approaches to philosophy and history, (ii) neuroscience’s influence on explanations for social and moral behavior, and (iii) the consequences of the neuro-turn in diverse sectors of social life such as science, education, film, and human self-understanding.

My abstract

Knowledge on adolescent brain development is increasingly being used by pedagogues, family coaches and other parenting professionals to tell parents what to do with their teenage children. The promise is that knowledge of the teenage brain not only explains ‘typical’ adolescent behaviour, but also provides an answer to the timely question of how to be a good parent. This chapter explores how the popular notion of the teenage brain is made valuable in Dutch parenting discourse to address concerns and ideals of good parenting – in short, questions of ethics. Instead of providing an inconclusive answer, parenting experts mobilize the teenage brain to reconcile different and sometimes conflicting parental norms, resulting in two distinct moral repertoires of parenting as ‘external frontal lobe’. The case of the teenage brain as parenting advice indicates the constitutive role norms, values and ideas of the good play in the diffusion of neuroscience knowledge into society.