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Adolescent Decisions

(12-17 Years of Age)

The adolescent years are important in decision-making in our lives. As adolescents, we tend to seek more independence in decision-making, though sometimes without being willing to take more responsibility for those decisions. Indeed, some adolescents seem to take the view: "I have a right to make my own decisions, but you have the responsibility to help me escape the consequences of those decisions whenever those consequences are negative."

Like the very young, adolescents seem to have limited capacity to take the long view. Their immediate view of what is happening to them is often generalized as if it were a lifelong condition (egocentric immediacy). In their desire to achieve independence, adolescents often engage in power struggles with their parents and other authority figures.

Like young children, the decisions of adolescents are often the result of the "party-line" of the peer groups to which they belong. Adolescent youth culture—again, with its media, movies, music, and heroes—plays a key role in the decision-making of most adolescents. Human insecurity drives adolescents to seek recognition and acceptance from other adolescents. Like young children, many of their decisions and behaviors reflect an attempt to achieve this end. The behavior patterns that result from these decisions often become the basis of short- and long-term problems.

Love, sexuality, and a comprehensive view of the world become important to adolescents, though each of these is often understood superficially. The basis for adolescents' conceptions of these is often drawn from movies, music, and television programs that target the adolescent population. This is a formula tailor-made for poor decision-making and bad habits.

For example, media-created heroes often are presented as successful when they use violence to defeat those who are presented as evil. In this good guys/bad guys world, everything is black or white. The evil doers use bullying and power to hurt and intimidate the weak and the good. The weak and the good are rescued only when someone who is good develops the courage to use violence against the evil doers.

In media-created romantic relationships, love is typically automatic, irrational, and at first sight, and has no real relationship to the character of the person. Adolescent media have virtually no heroes who achieve their heroic status because of rational use of their mind or knowledge.

If the decisions, behavior patterns, and habits developed in adolescence were to simply come and go with the early and adolescent years, one could simply wait them out. But this is not the case. All of us are shaped, often for a lifetime, by decisions and habits formed during these important years. As soon as possible, conscious intervention is needed.

Test the Idea
Evaluating Adolescent Decisions

Review in your mind your recollections about your life as an adolescent. Which of your decisions proved to be most significant? Ask yourself the following questions. If you cannot answer a question, simply move on to the next:

  • Can you identify some ways in which you were influenced by the media as an adolescent?

  • To what extent did your decisions during adolescence reflect an attempt on your part to gain recognition and acceptance from other adolescents? What decisions can you specify?

  • To what extent did any of these decisions become the basis for short- or long-term problems?

  • To what extent were your decisions regarding romantic relationships based on influences from youth culture?

  • Can you identify one bad habit you formed as a result of poor adolescent decision-making?

  • To what extent is your conception of love or friendship a reflection of the manner in which love or friendship is treated in movies or music lyrics?

If you have difficulty answering any of the above questions (for example, because it seems to you that you were independent in your decision-making), does it seem plausible to you that someone lives in a culture and yet is not significantly influenced by it?

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