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Future-oriented thinking in adolescence and the link between adolescent mental health

Adolescence is a period of growth and transition from childhood towards adult responsibility and independence. Typically, adolescents are expected to accomplish a set of culturally defined developmental tasks, which involve starting to make personal choices about significant life issues. These decisions may have life-long consequences, for example, relating to future career prospects, mental and physical health and psychological well-being. They may also be informed by the ability to flexibly appraise one’s future alternatives and goal-directed outcomes toward which individuals will work. However, little is known about how future-oriented thought develops across adolescence or whether individual differences in mental health affect its quality, style and content.

In this wider programme of research, which we are developing in collaboration with the researchers from the University of east London BabyDEV Lab and the Centre for Brain Sciences at the University of Essex, we are aiming to examine the potential effects of poor mental health on the adolescents’ future-oriented thought and the willingness to wait and work for goal-directed outcomes. We are using EEG and fMRI to characterise the neural basis of prospection as a core feature of decision making about future alternatives in normal and abnormal state and conditions.

For more information please email Dr Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne.