It's My Body and None of Your Business: Developmental Changes in Adolescents' Perceptions of Rights Concerning Health


We examined developmental changes in adolescents' perceptions of an individual's right to engage in risky behaviors that could pose harm to health. The views of 563 early, 506 middle, and 467 late adolescents concerning the degree to which individuals have a right to engage in smoking, drinking, and drug use (private health beliefs) or whether the government has a right to impose constraints on individuals (public health beliefs) were surveyed over 3 years. Endorsements of individual rights increased between early and middle adolescence and remained stable into late adolescence. Endorsements of public health beliefs showed a curvilinear trend with middle adolescents less likely than early or late adolescents to endorse the government's right to constrain individual choices. Regardless of age, endorsements of public health were positively and individual rights were negatively related to an adolescent's belief that s/he had a right to intervene in a friend's risky choices.


Sociology and Anthropology

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Journal of Social Issues