Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Self-Advocacy in Teens 2024

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The importance of fostering decision-making, problem-solving, and self-advocacy skills in teens has gained greater recognition. Adolescence is a critical period for developing essential life skills that will shape their future success in adulthood. By promoting these abilities, we empower teens to navigate challenges, make informed decisions.

A group of teens collaboratively brainstorm solutions, weigh options, and assert their opinions confidently in a discussion setting

These skills help teens take responsibility for their actions, but they also nurture a sense of autonomy and confidence. Teens can better understand the consequences of their decisions and apply practical problem-solving strategies to address everyday hurdles. Self-advocacy allows them to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns in a constructive manner, fostering essential communication and negotiation skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Decision-making and problem-solving skills are crucial for teens’ personal and professional success.
  • Building self-advocacy skills enables adolescents to confidently express their needs and rights.
  • Parents and educators play a vital role in nurturing these abilities, alongside the use of digital tools.

Understanding Decision-Making in Teens

The Teenage Brain and Decision-Makingt

We often wonder why teenagers tend to make different decisions compared to adults. The teenage brain develops, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for complex decision-making, self-control. The prefrontal cortex continues developing until the mid-20s1, explaining why teenagers may lack impulse control and make irrational decisions.

When discussing the teenage brain and decision-making, it is important to consider the role of hormones. During adolescence, hormone levels fluctuate, impacting emotions and cognitive abilities. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure, has been found to have higher levels in the teenage brain2.

Factors Influencing Teen Decisions

Several factors, both internal and external, can influence a teen’s decision-making process.

  1. Peer pressure: During adolescence, the powerful urge to belong often leads to substantial influence from peers. In some cases, this pressure can lead to risky behaviors or poor decisions.
  2. Family environment: The family plays a crucial role in shaping a teen’s decision-making. Supportive and nurturing environments can foster healthy decision-making, while chaotic or neglectful households can contribute to poor choices. Parents can help by fostering self-determination and self-advocacy in their children.
  3. Exposure to media: Contemporary teenagers have extensive media exposure, influencing their views and choices. This exposure can have both positive and negative impacts on their decision-making.
  4. Education and problem-solving skills: A strong educational foundation can empower teens to make well-informed and deliberate decisions. For example, learning problem-solving skills can help them navigate life’s challenges and make better choices3.

To aid young adults in decision-making, it’s crucial to acknowledge these factors and offer suitable support, education, and growth opportunities. This fosters teens capable of making responsible choices as they enter adulthood.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892678/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4074894/
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07294360.2023.2293191
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