Thought Recognition, Locus of Control, and Adolescent Well-Being

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper reviews the underlying assumptions and principles of a new psychological paradigm, Psychology of Mind/Health Realization (POM/HR). A core concept of POM/HR, thought recognition, is then compared with locus of control (LOC), a well-known psychological construct. Next, the relationship of LOC to self-reported happiness and satisfaction is examined from the perspective of POM/HR, using a sample of 1,872 at-risk adolescents from 17 nations. The findings support POM/HR predictions that (1) locus of control would account for a slight portion of the variance in adolescent happiness and satisfaction, (2) circumstances that are external in nature would account for additional variance in happiness and satisfaction, and (3) there would be little difference in self-reported happiness and satisfaction between adolescents self-reporting high and low internal LOC. Further, it was conjectured that the adolescents mistook superficial emotions, such as excitement and security, for genuine feelings of well-being. Fin ally, the implications for prevention and intervention efforts with at-risk adolescents are discussed.

Over a century has passed since William James predicted the discovery of causal principles of human psychological functioning. James asserted that knowledge of these causal laws would eventually lead to higher levels of mental well-being for all of society. Unfortunately, psychology's great promise has failed to materialize. Nowhere is this more evident than with adolescents.

A significant number of American teenagers suffer from low self-esteem, are educational underachievers, and are skeptical about their ability to function adequately in society. The teen suicide rate has doubled since 1980 and teenage drug use is still high (e.g., more than 90% of high school students have tried alcohol). Teen violence has exploded during the past few decades; for example, the rate of homicide involving juvenile offenders has increased at a much faster pace than the rate of homicide involving adult offenders (Siegel & Senna, 1997).

The Task Force on the Education of Young Adolescents (1989) has estimated that seven million adolescents (or 25% of the teen population under 17 years of age) are extremely vulnerable to the negative consequences of school failure, substance abuse, delinquency, and early sexuality, while another seven million are at moderate risk.

Delinquency, substance abuse, and other health-damaging and antisocial behaviors among youth are not just U.S. problems. Canada's youth crime rate, for example, has been on the rise since 1956. From 1985 to 1995, the number of youth charged with violent crimes doubled. About one-third of all Canadian property crime is committed by juvenile offenders. Youth gangs have become a common feature in larger cities, such as Vancouver and Toronto (Hatch & Griffiths, 1992).

In Germany, juveniles are involved in about one-fifth of all violent crime and one-third of all property offenses. Drug abuse is also a common problem, and outbursts of violence against immigrants and minorities by youth gangs of "skinheads" have been reported (Kaiser, 1992).

Crime in Sweden, a country known for its liberal social welfare programs, has increased, the majority of offenders being young males (Friday, 1992). Juvenile delinquency in the island nation of Singapore is on the rise; the number of arrests of young people more than doubled between 1991 and 1995 (Siegel & Senna, 1997). Russia has experienced a significant increase in delinquency, and teens account for nearly 25% of all serious criminal activity (Finckenauer, 1995). Even so-called "normal" adolescents around the world typically experience periods of depression, anxiety, and problems with adults, as well as succumb to peer pressure.

PSYCHOLOGY OF MIND/HEALTH REALIZATION

A new paradigm, Psychology of Mind/Health Realization (POM/HR), has the potential to help humanity realize the promise of psychology as noted by James. …