Teenagers: A Natural History

David Bainbridge

Published: 7 January 2010
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781846271229


During the second decade of human life, the body and brain undergo a profound and complex transformation, with emotions and intellect changing as rapidly and unpredictably as weight and height. These changes can be baffling - to teenagers and to those around them alike - but adolescence plays an important evolutionary role in who we become as adults and there are hard scientific facts behind the spots, the smells and the sexual experimentation, as well as the existential angst, the anger and the irresistible attraction to all the things that are bad for you. In clear, engaging and amiable prose, David Bainbridge explains the strange and wonderful science of the teenage years. And tells us just exactly what teenagers are for.

About the author

Image of David Bainbridge

David Bainbridge was trained in veterinary surgery and zoology at Cambridge University, where he now teaches Clinical Veterinary Anatomy. He is the author of four previous books: on pregnancy, on the biology of sex and sexuality, on the brain, and most recently Teenagers (Portobello, 2009). www.davidbainbridge.org More about the author


‘[A] thoughtful but sometimes unsettling book ... Bainbridge has written a compelling natural history’ Alan Cane



Teenagers is an entertaining book full of quot-able "Did you know ...?" facts or assertions ... To those grumpy adults who ask, "What are teenagers for?" he suggests the real question should be: "What are adults for?" ... Rather than feel sorry for ourselves when teenagers snarl or make a nuisance of themselves on the bus, adults should take a humbler, more positive line. Teenagers are our only excuse for living longer. Without them, without their need to be guided, paid for and mopped up after while their brains mature, we would all be dead by thirty. Remember this the next time the door slams, or the kitchen is left looking like a bomb site’ Cassandra Jardine

‘A remarkably thorough investigation of teenagers ... his book will be invaluable for parents as a route to understanding what is going on and why’

‘At a time when youth culture is feared and demonised, here is a welcome antidote. A highly readable account of the physical, emotional and mental changes that occur in the second decade of life and a thought-provoking thesis’ Kate Douglas

‘Bainbridge believes the teenage brain is the central phenomenon of the human race - and he goes back to evolutionary science to prove it’ Áilín Quinlan

‘Bainbridge celebrates adolescence, theorising that the development of adolescents a quarter of a million years ago gave the human brain the spur to grow to its modern dimensions’ Colin Waters

‘Bainbridge is a veterinary anatomist at Cambridge University and he clearly knows his science. This, along with an enviably lucid writing style, enables him to explain brain structure and physiology in an accessible way ... an illuminating exploration of adolescence’ Bill Thompson

‘David Bainbridge is a Cambridge University vet and anatomist and it is from this "strange creatures" perspective that he writes this highly accessible popular-science book’ Annika Joy

‘Explores the hard scientific facts behind the spot, smells and sexual experimentation of adolescence, as well as teenager's attraction to all things unhealthy. And when he doesn't have all the answers, he maps out the competing theories’

‘He moves with ease between biology, cultural history and natural history, and his wit enlivens every page’

‘His boundless enjoyment of a journey across the length of human evolution is what most makes this book worth reading ... More than a natural history of teenagers, this thought-provoking book is about humans and our place in the world, and the unexpected but real importance of adolescents in that world’ Nicola Morgan

‘I happily recommend this book to anyone in charge of teenagers themselves’ Nicolas Bagnall

‘If you're an anguished parent, desperate for tips on how to treat your stroppy teenagers ... you will learn a huge amount about what happens to our brains and bodies during adolescence ... It's all fascinating stuff’ Katie Law

‘Pitched at just the right level to draw the layman in ... David Bainbridge is to be congratulated for shedding light on our angst-ridden yet essentially loveable juvenile kin’ Ian Thomson

‘Prepare to have your preconception about teenagers challenged ... This is a lively, well-written book aimed both at adults and adolescents’ Fiona Capp

‘Should you have a difficult teenager in your life, this book might just help everyone co-exist. Friendly and light-hearted, it attempts to explain why those years are so challenging ... Teenagers: A Natural History offers a fresh and encouraging perspective on a difficult and embarrassing, yet vitally important, stage in the human life cycle’ Gail Vines

‘The author of this book does not dispute that almost all teenagers are morose, sullen, ungrateful, antagonistic, pretentious, awkward, aggressive, libidinous and suicidal - often all at the same time. What he does is tell us why they are like this, for which many thanks’ Rod Liddle

‘The tone in Teenagers is chatty and energetic and the chances are you will find something really useful here’ Sally Williams

‘The uncomfortable, not to say messy, transition from childish naivety to adulthood becomes a thing of fascination when viewed through the eyes of a practising vet ... Bainbridge's zoological approach takes the upheaval of adolescence and turns it into a choreography of interwoven steps that become the most important years of our lives’ Ian Sample

‘This is a book whose sole purpose is to answer the question of what teenagers are for ... A fresh and engaging study’ Jane Shilling

‘This pop science guide to the physical and mental changes of adolescence is pretty fascinating even if you're a good few decades past Clearasil yourself. And those currently in its thrall can arm themselves with facts to excuse their behaviour’ Lottie Moggach

‘This popular-science book offers an engaging account of the physiological and intellectual growth spurts, and the moods and excesses that accompany them ... a multi-disciplinary account of teen turmoil that is both lively and sympathetic’ Terri Apter

‘This vet from Cambridge writes about teens as though they were animals (in a nice way), providing biological, anthropological and cultural reasons to explain their behavioural patterns’

‘To anybody exposed to moody, incorrigibly messy teenagers, swinging between episodes of exuberance and sloth, this book's offer that "a vet has the answers" has an immediate appeal’ Michael Fitzpatrick

‘Whether you are stuck in this difficult decade yourself or have children who are, this is a fascinating and fresh perspective’ Luis Villazon

‘You will learn a huge amount about what happens to our brains and bodies during adolescence ... David Bainbridge, a clever vetinary scientist ... uses a mix of biology, zoology and evolutionary psychology to explain why the teen years are "a wonderfully exciting collision" when all the different strands of our life get tangled in a way that will never happen again’ Katie Law

‘Zingy metaphors and a racy prose style ... Irresistible’ Miriam Stoppard

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