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Adolescence. 1993 Fall;28(111):533-55.

The ability of adolescents to predict future outcome. Part I: Assessing predictive abilities.

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Child and Adolescent Outpatient Department, Cornell University Medical Center, White Plains, New York 10605.


Because adolescents are generally viewed as "risk-takers," an assessment of planning and decision-making skills during the teenage years may reveal why this developmental group tends to engage in dangerous behaviors. One area in which these abilities have significant consequences for future outcome is pregnancy, a condition that requires a decision to either give birth or abort. Previewing, a process by which caregivers introduce infants to the physical sensations of imminent developmental change and the implications of such change on their relationship, may affect the adolescent's ability to predict upcoming change. This paper explores previewing skills during the adolescent years and how this capacity affects the teenager's orientation toward future outcomes.


Previewing, a future-oriented psychotherapeutic intervention, can assist pregnant adolescents in deciding whether to give birth or have an abortion. Such an intervention involves an assessment of the sophistication of the adolescent's decision making and planning skills and the use of techniques for weighing consequences. Adolescents who have been taught to predict outcomes will be better equipped to make decisions about risky behaviors. Previewing is more commonly used to introduce infants to the physical sensations of the next developmental stage and to promote a secure parent-child attachment relationship. However, adolescence also requires mastery of a set of development milestones, including establishing a sexual identity, making decisions about a career, asserting autonomy, and envisioning having one's own family. Risk-taking behaviors are developmentally expected during adolescence and help the teenager assert an identity that is separate from that of family members. At the same time, adolescents are often incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions or the likelihood of an unwanted outcome such as pregnancy. Also characteristic of adolescents who have not had adequate attachment relationships in childhood is an external locus of control, in which consequences are conceived as unrelated to personal actions. Previewing can assist the adolescent in developing an internal locus of control and a future orientation by rehearsing the risks associated with carrying a pregnancy to term--e.g., emotional unpreparedness for parenthood, economic stress, conflict with family and peers, curtailment of individual goals in terms of education and employment--and the perceived benefits--e.g., alleviating loneliness, obtaining a stronger commitment from the father--and then selecting the best alternative.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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