Why Do Adolescents Have Difficulty Adhering to Health Regimes?
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn Teachers College, Columbia University and Educational Testing Service
Adolescence is a challenging time in that adolescents begin engaging in so-called adult behaviors and are confronted with a plethora of interwoven and complex issues, such as autonomy, intimacy, and achievement. Often, adolescence is characterized by a series of developmental challenges that need to be mastered. These include the accommodation to pubertal changes, the alteration of childhood ties to parents, the regulation of moods, the reorganization of self-definitions, the acquisition of new academic and possibly work-related skills, and the management of sexual arousal and opposite-sex relationships ( Brooks-Gunn & Petersen, 1983, 1991; Brooks-Gunn, Petersen, & Eichorn, 1985; Feldman & Elliott, 1990; Gunnar & Collins, 1988; Lerner & Foch, 1987; Montemayor, Adams, & Gullotta, 1990; Simmons & Blyth, 1987).
Additionally, adolescents must make decisions about whether, when, and how often to engage in a series of health-related behaviors. Whether examining adherence to regimes for controlling chronic illnesses, the maintenance of already established health regimes, or the acquisition of new health-promoting behavior, adolescents face a unique challenge; that is, they must learn to negotiate the transition from primarily parental regulation of behavior (or at least parental support, encouragement, and monitoring of health-related behaviors) to more self-regulation. If difficulties arise during this transition, they may turn to or otherwise be offered guidance from health professionals, peers, and/or school personnel. Families are affected by the necessity for more self-regulation. How well do adolescents negotiate this transition, and what are the circumstances that render the process difficult for them?