The cycles of Jupiter and Saturn
Jupiter makes significant aspects to its natal position (by square, opposition or conjunction) approximately every three years. At age 3, at the waxing Jupiter square, toilet training and language development means a child is able, with help from his care-givers, to expand his social circles through travel and play. At age 6, the first opposition, he can demonstrate rote mastery of letters and sounds; and if he attends a public school, will have been encouraged to take that leap of faith into putting those sounds and letters together to form words. By age 9, the waning Jupiter square, he is able to present and argue for his beliefs and he also understands the difference between a ‘real’ threat, such as kidnapping, and a ‘fantasy’ threat, such as goblins and dragons.
It is at the first Jupiter return, at about the age of 11-12, that things start to get very interesting.
At the age of 11-12, in both the United States and in the United Kingdom, there is usually a transition into a bigger school: students meet more children from different schools who may have different religious or philosophical beliefs; they take on more lessons with different teachers; they take on new interests and consequently and ‘coincidentally’ expand their horizons—exactly what astrologer might expect in any Jupiter return. They will grow physically as fast as they had as infants. New neural pathways are being formed as hormones are released. Many teachers and parents will describe the years following the first Jupiter return as a challenging. It usually remains a difficult time until the first Saturn opposition at about the age of 14 when a whole new set of difficulties arise.
Data from a London school demonstrates that poor behaviour peaks at about the age of 12-13, just after the first Jupiter return but before the first Saturn opposition. ‘Poor behaviour’ can be described as minor offences, such as being ill-equipped for class, graduating to more serious (and excludable) offences, such open defiance, racist remarks or violence. It can be seen that ‘year 8’, (grade 7 in the US) – the year that corresponds to the time in which most of the year group has experienced the first Jupiter return but not the Saturn opposition – shows a higher number of reports of poor behaviour. This data is typical.
In contrast to the Jupiter cycle, Saturn’s orbit is just under 30 years, with squares, oppositions and return happening at about every 7 years. Thus, as Saturn traditionally rules the hard parts of the body, such as the teeth, we see 7-year-olds with obviously missing milk teeth at the first waxing Saturn square; at 14, the once rowdy post-Jupiter return adolescents are starting to take their studies seriously because they are contemplating responsibilities in the working world. Many pupils of this age also wear orthodontics, perhaps a reflection of the first Saturn square. In the US, they are freshmen in high school; in the UK, they start to choose the subjects they want to study and participate in work experience to give them a flavour of the reality of having a job. By 21, the waning square, people are usually at the height of their physical power; and by about 29-30, the time of the first Saturn return, there is usually a grim reminder that human life does not last forever.
The astrology of brain development in adolescence
The years between the first Jupiter return and first Saturn opposition creates a veritable window of opportunity for development if it is used correctly. It used to be thought that only infants had an abundance of neural connections that were effectively pruned around the age of 3  (the first waxing Jupiter square). However, it is now thought that there is a second burst in neuronal development around the time of the first Jupiter return. Although the child usually experiences a physical growth spurt at this age, the brain needs time to catch up. This creates a problem where one had not existed before: adolescents of this age base their decisions on information from the limbic system (particularly the amygdala which is responsible for emotions and memories) as opposed to the more adult-like rational prefrontal cortex which is underdeveloped at this stage  (at the same time as they are undertaking new experiences). Not only do they lack the practice of handling new situations, they lack the decision-making processes that may protect them from harm.
Another symptom of adolescence is the perceived ‘laziness’ of teenagers. During the growth spurt, a major circadian (traditionally, the cycles of sleep are ruled by the Sun and Moon) shift happens causing an adolescent to have trouble falling asleep and waking at the same time as they did as a younger child or as they will as a fully grown adult. The tendency to adjust bedtimes for weekends and vacations exacerbates an already disturbed sleeping pattern thus creating a downward spiral of needing more and more sleep.
As in infancy, once new neuronal paths are developed, they are pruned at a time coinciding with the first Saturn opposition at about the age of 14-15. From the chart above, it would also appear that behaviour improves as the adolescent matures. In brain development, a ‘use or lose it’ premise is in operation: the habits of a lifetime are being formed at this time.
At about the same time as the Saturn opposition, Jupiter makes its first post-return sextile to its natal placement. Although the behaviour of pupils improves in school as they take on new responsibilities, things are very different out of school and at home: adolescents of this age begin to enjoy taking more risks. This is far more pronounced when they are in the company of their peers (‘gang’-type behaviour). During this stage of their lives, adolescents should be at their most physically resilient and healthiest but statistics show that they are at their most vulnerable to fatal accidents and suicide. Much of this is directly due to problems with controlling their behaviour and emotions.
As astrologers we might recognise a brush of death as being appropriate for a Saturn opposition. But something else is going on here. In addition to the Jupiter sextile, Uranus also makes its first Ptolemaic aspect (also by sextile) at this time, thus creating a surge of reckless, irresponsible and quite often outrageous behaviour. Further, although Uranus does not rule adolescence per se, the planet’s association with rebellion reflects one of the main symptoms of this age group.
Studies have also shown that habits cultivated during adolescence are incredibly hard to break. Not only is the brain ‘re-wiring’ itself but it is more sensitive to dopamine, a chemical released by the brain during the excitement of near-misses. Playing it safe or sensibly does not release dopamine and therefore the feel-good effect afterwards does not happen. This might explain why adolescents behave recklessly or without thought to the safety of themselves or others. For these reasons, some neurologists argue that an adolescent who commits a crime should not be punished in the same manner as a responsible adult should be, such as in the case of Will Cornick who is currently serving 20 years for the murder of teacher Ann Maguire. 
This notion of the instability of adolescents is reflected in our laws to protect them: they can’t vote, legally drive or consume alcohol until well past the first Saturn opposition. The boisterousness expected of Jupiter and Uranus has a natural restraint in the more Saturnine collective consciousness. The astrological key here appears to be to exploit Jupiter’s role at the return, work with Saturn’s role at the first Saturn opposition in order to rein in the potential risks of Uranus and Jupiter at the sextile.
But most importantly, understanding how you operate as the disciplinarian is crucial
Teaching hints: know thy Saturn
A person in charge of any given situation needs to be very familiar with their own Saturn (by sign, natal aspect and transit aspect to its natal position). For the parent or classroom teacher (authority figures with so much responsibility), understanding how you cope with your own taskmaster is absolutely crucial. Just listen to how fully grown adults judge their parents and teachers—even when they are well past the crucial developmental stages!
So before you read on, perhaps it would be a good idea to stop and re-familiarise yourself with Saturn in your own chart.
Teaching hints: Jupiter through the signs
Knowing the sign Jupiter occupies gives a heads-up to how a child grows, how he likes to learn and what may appeal to him to keep interested. During the growth process of adolescence this type of information may have an important impact on a child’s progress, because the brain development ‘coincides’ with the Jupiter return and is the type that is wiring-up new neuronal pathways. As pupils are educated by year group, it isn’t difficult to realise that all the children you teach will more-or-less have the same Jupiter sign (but owing to retrograde, stationing and forward motion, this might vary year-to-year). It is also worth noting that the number of conjunctions for the return can be just one or up to three (again, owing to retrograde and forward motion). These are just a few general ideas on how to exploit Jupiter during crucial learning points.
Jupiter in Aries: These learners like a good race. Keep lessons at a good pace and create a sense of competition in the classroom. Teach these children to self-assess and keep track of their progress. Encourage them to compare their results to others so they can see where they stand. Very often these children will hone in on one skill in which they become unbeatable.
Jupiter in Taurus: These learners like to use their senses but they also need time to digest what they have learned so be careful not to pile on the data all at once. Using project folders, so they can add or take away pages, could be just one way of letting them indulge in their love of collecting things.
Jupiter in Gemini: These learners polarise into super-speedy or super-reluctant—and very often this tendency has its roots in their experiences of learning to read. These learners have seen knowledge worshipped like God and they will see God as a harsh judge on those who can’t read, so reluctant learners will take great pains to conceal their lack of ability.
Jupiter in Cancer: These learners usually have a great love of history and a tendency to rely on their memories rather than rational information. They might like to be involved in charities or in activities that make them feel they are doing something to make the world a better place. Linking lessons to creating a home or taking care of a family may motivate them to do more cerebral work such as algebra.
Jupiter in Leo: These learners love drama so incorporate opportunities to show off their acting skills. Display or record their work (but warn them first) so they can see themselves – and each other – in the best possible light. Encourage them to show their generous and altruistic side or you will never get them off the stage.
Jupiter in Virgo: These learners like precision and order. It doesn’t bother them to do the same thing over and over but it will bother them to submit less than perfect work. They can be brutal with criticism so always ensure clear ground rules are followed in peer- or self-assessments.
Jupiter in Libra: These learners like to work with others but in paired learning; it needs to be strategic. Putting them with someone they really like or someone they really hate and you basically have the same problem—no work gets done.
Jupiter in Scorpio: These learners have an uncanny sense of what makes others uncomfortable and they will use this to avoid Physics lessons if you let them think they got under your skin. Occasionally let these pupils indulge in their passion for graphic literature but also put their excellent research skills to good use.
Jupiter in Sagittarius: These pupils tend to think they know everything so the things they come out with can be very insensitive. They like ‘big ideas’ but tend to need guidance in looking at the details. Linking lessons to religious beliefs not only gives them a chance to explore issues such as compassion and dignity but gives them an opportunity to see life from another person’s perspective.
Jupiter in Capricorn: These learners enjoy holding posts of responsibility but in a classroom of 30 pupils, not everyone can be an elder statesman. They usually have a frighteningly realistic view of the world and if they are aware of the competition around them, will rise to the challenge. They need to know where they stand amongst their peers
Jupiter in Aquarius: Although this sign is symbolised by a human, often these learners have the inkling that they are not really human at all. They love high-tech gadgets and use them in ways you never thought possible. As a class, they will be very inventive but will not like to do what everyone else is doing. Give them space to explore alternative answers to traditional questions.
Jupiter in Pisces: These learners are sensitive to the ambiance of the classroom so can shut down if they feel threatened. Consequently they might miss something important. They will need lots of reminders, helpful displays and plenty of opportunity to use their ample imaginations.
A few final thoughts on Uranus
Although the first Jupiter sextile after the return may be enough to explain risk-taking in 14/15-year-olds, it is worth making a few final comments on Uranus. The so-called digital revolution began around the time of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction so at this first quarter phase (Uranus square Pluto), we are only just beginning to get a glimpse of things to come. Currently, the Uranus-Pluto square has generated much debate about the economy and an impending financial crisis. The impact of technology on adolescents has been completely overlooked. The tragic news of several adolescents in the UK committing suicide due to online bullying  is one sad outcome of what can happen through our society’s obsession with high-tech gadgets, the internet and our increasing reliance on artificial intelligence.
‘Ask.fm’ has emerged as a particularly nasty website whereby anonymous posts can be made to someone’s Facebook wall. It is emerging that easily accessed pornography is having a devastating effect on the adolescents who become addicted to it. Urgent legislation for the monitoring of the internet and mobile phones for the under-18s is something those of us in authority need to lobby for and provide. Our undervalued guidance and experience may be unwelcome in a society which puts disproportionate emphasis on youth but our young people need to stop tweeting, BBMing (Blackberry messaging) and Facebooking – and get some fresh air.
And if under-18s can’t monitor their usage themselves (and they really can’t), then we need to get in there and do it for them. We ‘old fogies’ could also do with getting to grips with the digital age so that we can see what all the fuss is about. And we, as astrologers, can perhaps shed some light onto this very tricky stage of human life.
Notes: ‘10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About their Teen’s Brain’, Nixon, Robin, article found online at: http://www.livescience.com/13850-10-facts-parent-teen-brain.html. Website retrieved by author, August 2013.
 ‘Teen Brain Wired for Risk’, Nauert, Rick, article found online at: http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/06/04/teen-brain-wired-for-risk/14296.html. Website retrieved by author, August 2013.
 ‘Will Cornick’s 20-year sentence for the murder of Ann Maguire defies logic’, Orr, Deborah: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/will-cornick-sentence-defies-logic. Retrieved by author, June 2015.
 ‘Cyberbullying Suicides: What will it take to have ask.fm to shut down?’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/10225846/Cyberbullying-suicides-What-will-it-take-to-have-Ask.fm-shut-down.html. Retrieved by author, August 2013
First published in: The Astrological Journal, Sep/Oct 2015