Adolescent decision-making: the development of competence

J Adolesc. 1989 Sep;12(3):265-78. doi: 10.1016/0140-1971(89)90077-8.


This article reviews evidence relating to the development of competence in decision-making during adolescence. The review focuses on cognitive aspects of decision-making and discusses nine indicators of competence: choice; comprehension; creativity; compromise; consequentiality; correctness; credibility; consistency; and commitment. The evidence suggests that by the age of 15 years many adolescents show a reliable level of competence in metacognitive understanding of decision-making, creative problem-solving, correctness of choice, and commitment to a course of action. Young adolescents (12-14 years) are less able to create options, identify a wide range of risks and benefits, foresee the consequences of alternatives, and gauge the credibility of information from sources with vested interests. No evidence is available relating to age differences in willingness to make choices, devise compromises, and show consistency of choices. Barriers to achieving competence in decision-making during adolescence include attitudinal constraints (e.g. beliefs about the proper age for making decisions), peer group pressures to conformity, breakdowns in family structure and functioning, and restricted legal rights to make important personal decisions (e.g. to donate blood or body tissue).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Choice Behavior
  • Concept Formation
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Personality Development*
  • Problem Solving