Yeah, I don’t know why that’s hard to understand if you think about human brain chemistry. Your brain doesn’t finish maturing until around age 25, and some of the last things to finish up are the parts of your brain responsible for impulse control, emotional stability, and making good judgments. So if you got turned into a vampire, let’s say, at age 16, you’re going to have the judgment, emotional stability, and impulse control of a 16-year-old, mixed with some serious emotional issues if you transform into an immortal (vamp, ghost, whatever) before the big blow of sexual puberty because then you’ve got the mental capacity of an adult sort of and the body of a child, and when that happens, you get characters like Okiku (ghost)
and Moaning Myrtle (she’s been around for at least 50 years)
Vampire Princess Miyu
Claudia the Vampire (she was in her 80s or 90s)
the Master Vampire Nikolaos (she was 400+ years old, made into a vampire when she was about 12-13)
and David from Lost Boys, who’s like, 35 or 50 and he’s physically about 17.
That whole “your brain not maturing and your body not aging while still gathering experience” is seriously bad and should affect an immortal more than you might think. That’s just taking in physiology, but then adding in upbringing, cultural roots, exposure to people. This guy
acts like a teenage boy around girls even though he’s in his late 20s when he meets Jane because he has zip romantic experience.
can’t handle family drama with any kind of finesse and she’s 200+ years old, due to being out of practice.
has no idea how to talk to girls or make friends after a few years because he’s a 40-year-old vampire in a 14-year-old body and he’s out of practice.
And this moron
can’t handle relationships because of years of racist treatment and bad breakups.
There’s more to making someone immortal than just being an immortal if they’re physically not an adult yet.
The issues I take with that the limiting factor in maturity may even be neurological development. There’s the experiential aspect of it and the effect of the peer group. So a normal 16-year old and a theoretical immortal 16 year old aren’t the same.
The brain development between 16-25 is a 9 year experience, and the life experience is also. But if that 16 year old (let’s make him a boy named Bob) is exposed to life experience spanning hundreds or thousands of years, even the observational knowledge alone would give that “16 year old” a vastly increased functional knowledge. There’s a much larger ability to learn from sheer practice alone once a person has seen or repeated a practice multiple times.
You see that even now – if a kid is exposed to a certain type of arguing style, they’ll repeat it. But if they’re taught a different way, they’ll adopt that which has been the most reinforced. It’s part of the rationale behind intervention for high-risk teens (they’re not fully developed, but they can be taught not to indulge in destructive behaviors.) It’s also why a teenager can blow up at Mom or Dad but be perfectly fine with their rules/discipline of their grandparents. Or argue with a sibling in a way they won’t with their parents.
Also, the brain development is combined with a hormonal component: this includes the capacity for knowledge acquisition (especially in language) and in the “permanence” of memories obtained at that time. Specifically, what a person learns with their teen brain has a high level of permanence.
About the impulsiveness – apparently, it’s not that teens don’t think about what they’re doing: they overthink it. An adult tends to quickly assess a situation and also quickly decide on their plan of action (to include the question “do I want to get involved at all”.) But teenagers appear to take a longer time to deliberate and go over possible outcomes. The problem is that they overestimate the benefits, and underestimate the consequence of their actions (a lack of knowledge, not a lack of deliberation.)
Also, their decision-making is influenced by what’s known as “arousal” – an emotional heightening. This can be generated by their peer environment. But a normal 16-year old surrounded by high-school peers (at the same level of experiential knowledge) is in a different emotional environment than Bob the immortal (does Bob truly have peers?)
It looks like risk-taking is also influenced by this. Experiments with teens and adults show them to be similarly risk-averse. But the adults were less likely to be in a state of arousal while in company with their peers, while the teens were more likely to do rash things while in groups of their age-mates. So the psycho-social component may be more of an issue than the neuro-biological component.
Teenagers can be angsty, but it isn’t an effective interpersonal technique, and that’s why
teens don’t act that way with everyone, or when it undercuts their
better interests. Unless there’s some real issue, they tend not to make the same mistakes over and over again if those mistakes are sufficiently penalized.
no good transitional comment here, but
I’d expect Bob not to want to interact with teenagers, unless teenagers
could be at the top of the political, economic and power tiers in their
Psychically, I’d expect Bob to be very messed up and have a lot of difficulty relating to a young person (who has their own emotional needs that aren’t fully self-managed.) It’s
hard to be driven from your home (and one would, if they were immortal
and unable to age.) That would be really problematic for someone young
enough to be expected to look different in a year or so. And if one can’t discuss this, it’d be a big problem. This is why I dislike stories pairing teen-immortals with normal teens: take out the arbitrary cool-factor of not dying (that feeds into the reader’s adulation of youthful-appearing immortality) and you’ve got a really-damaged character that their partner tries to redeem. IRL, I’d call that a toxic relationship that, if I saw that in my teens would have troubled me, and now would have made me use every legal trick in the book to separate the two.
So if Bob is made immortal in the teen years, what could be more
likely (based on what we know about the brain and about teens vs. adults strategies for decisionmaking) is that Bob would display a high level of
knowledge (which would look like intelligence), with a high capacity to
learn and retain information from experiences he’s having – he’d be a very quick study. That would quickly override “typical” teenage behaviors.
being angsty and impulsive, I would expect Bob to be deeply cunning, manipulative,
and highly self-aware – again, due to the effect of seeing the results
of his earlier behavior. He would know how to use his youthful
appearance to his advantage, so he might play the angsty teenager for show, but with a very calculated reason for doing so. Hormonally, he should be highly sexual. So he should be emotionally dangerous territory, for a real teenager.
I think in literature, the only way they make 16-year-old immortal = 16 year old is by severely isolating the immortal. Mainly by giving them a sufficient trauma that the person isn’t intrinsically motivated to seek out the world due to mistrust, or by saddling them with a responsibility that make leaving an emotional wrong (emotional blackmail). Otherwise, I’d expect a characters like (can’t remember the names) from Lucifer who were made immortal as a teenagers. They were more mature than their adult human counterparts, because the immortals had to be.
I get super annoyed when 16-year-old immortal = 16 for the reasons I indicated. But what would interest me is immortality used as a proxy for childhood exposure to trauma, or a proxy for “newly-outsider” status: where the MC looks like a child, but their exposure to the world has given them an adult’s functional knowledge.
HOLY SHIT YA’ALL. Is this what happens when the smart people find your dumb posts? This is super interesting, thank you!
Awesome and eye opening, both as a writer and reader.