Affective Motivators and Experience in Adolescents’ Development of Health-Related Behavior Patterns

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Book Chapter

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adolescent development, health-related behavior pattern, motivation, emotions, cognitive processes

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Recognition of the role of affect in adolescent decisions has increased through studies of adolescent risk taking, advances in neuroscience research, and growing attention to dual process models of decision making. This chapter explores relationships between adolescents’ affective motives and their participation in both health-threatening (drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes) and health-enhancing (exercising, “eating healthy”) behaviors. In addition to summarizing recent literature, we provide an empirical demonstration of the perceived impact of affective motives on adolescents’ decisions to engage in behaviors that influence their health. For health-threatening behaviors, results confirm the perceived importance of anticipatory regret in discouraging drinking and smoking and the differential importance of various promoters (e.g., feeling stressed, having a good time) in encouraging them. Results are less clear-cut for the health-enhancing behaviors, suggesting possible roles for anticipated regret, self-esteem/efficacy, and social/emotional goals in promoting exercising and healthy eating. The direction of influence for some motivators (e.g., feeling sad or stressed) may vary with experience, encouraging healthy behaviors among those with more experience and discouraging healthy behaviors among those with less experience. The discussion focuses on the likely role of social context and social meaning in shaping affective motivators. The authors speculate that affective motivators may be more likely to encourage healthy lifestyles when adolescents view their behaviors within the larger context of the future and longer term goals. Implications of this work are discussed with respect to interactions between affective and cognitive processes in adolescent decision making.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Affective Motivators and Experience in Adolescents’ Development of Health-Related Behavior Patterns, in V. Reyna, S. Chapman, M. Dougherty & J. Confrey (Eds.), The Adolescent Brain: Learning, Reasoning, and Decision Making, American Psychological Association, p. 291-335