Teens actually think less about future than adults
A new study has confirmed the popular stereotype that teenagers are short-sighted, and, consequently, prone to poor judgement and risky decision-making when it comes to issues like taking drugs and having sex.india Updated: Feb 07, 2009 21:19 IST
A new study has confirmed the popular stereotype that teenagers are short-sighted, and, consequently, prone to poor judgement and risky decision-making when it comes to issues like taking drugs and having sex.
Published in the journal Child Development, the study shows that children aged 16 and younger actually think less about the future than adults.
However, the study also suggests that the reasons may have less to do with impulsivity, and more to do with a desire to do something exciting.
A team of researchers from Temple University, the University of California, Los Angeles, Georgetown University, the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Colorado looked at more than 900 individuals ranging in age from 10 to 30, and from an ethnically and socio-economically diverse group to determine how people of different ages think about the future consequences of their decisions.
The researchers revealed that they used a new questionnaire and an experimental task called delay discounting, which measures the extent to which people prefer immediate but smaller rewards to delayed but larger ones.
They said that in comparison with adults, teenagers were found to consider the future less, and preferred immediate rewards to delayed ones—for example, 700 dollars today versus 1,000 dollars a year from now.
The team, however, insisted that it might not be impulsivity that guided their lack of forethought.
According to them, teens were short-sighted more due to immaturity in the brain systems that govern sensation seeking than to immaturity in the brain systems responsible for self-control.
The researchers pointed out that brain systems governing sensation seeking are very active between the ages of 10 and 16, while brain systems governing self-control continue to mature beyond age 16.
They revealed that their study showed few changes in teens'' concepts about the future after age 16.
"Those who wish to use research on adolescent decision-making to guide legal policies concerning teenagers'' rights and responsibilities need to be more specific about which particular capacities are being studied—sensation seeking or self-control—since they don''t all mature along the same timetable," concludes Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Temple University and the study''s lead author.