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Pain Rehabilitation Parenting Scientific Research

Following Doctor’s Orders

When teens don’t believe parents or doctors have the right to set rules, they don’t follow them.

In my professional role, I study adolescent-parent relationships. In an earlier post, I’ve talked about how developmental science and my research on adolescent development has shaped the 1step2life app.

Last weekend, I was honored to give a talk at iPain’s 2020 International Pain Summit. This talk was more straight science. I spoke about recent research I have been doing with my student and co-Investigator, Lucas Mendicino on adolescents’ beliefs about the legitimacy of authority. Specifically, we have been studying teens’ beliefs about

  • whether it’s okay for parents and doctors to set guidelines about lifestyle changes typically recommended for people in pain
  • whether teens feel they are obliged to obey those guidelines, and
  • whether they think it’s okay to lie when they don’t.

Our research shows that teens do believe they should follow parents’ and doctors’ advice with regards to traditional medical areas – like going to the doctor when they’re sick, taking meds, etc. But areas like stress reduction, exercise, and dietary changes are seen as personal choices.

Because they’re personal, it’s okay to disobey.

Previous research I and other researchers have done shows that when adolescents don’t think rules are legitimate, they are more likely to disobey and to hide their disagreement and disobedience with parents. In other words, they tend to lie.

As parents get suspicious, they become more intrusive and less trusting. They snoop.

Then teens tend to dig in, parents and teens fight, and the parent withdraws the rules.

Does it work that way with guidelines about lifestyle changes and pain rehab? We don’t know yet. But that’s the next step forward in our research.

We believe that having a better understanding of patient beliefs can help communicate more effectively with teens and parents, promote a better understanding of pain rehabilitation, and lead to greater treatment adherence.

Interested? Watch our talk!

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