The Personal Fable and Risk-Taking in Early Adolescence

Feeling unique and special is one of the features commonly shared by adolescents, which is termed as “personal fable” by Elkind in 1967. They tend to think that they are different from others with respect to thoughts, behaviors, and abilities, which may result with some risk-taking behaviors.  The article of this week mentions a study conducted for determining the relation between the personal fable and risk-taking in early adolescence. In this paper, firstly, I will give a brief summary of the study and then I will tell its contributions to literature. Finally, I will point out its limitations with regards to design of the study.

Participants in the study were 119 middle school students from sixth, seventh and eighth grades. To measure the extent of their personal fable and risk-taking orientation, two scales were used. Personal fable scale which was constructed by the authors of the article included 12- item likert-type scale whose subscales were invulnerability and specialty.  Risk taking scale was for learning responses of the participants in hypothetical situations related to social and physical risks, novelty and social conformity. After data collection process which occurred in school setting with paper-and-pencil instruments and data analysis, the study concluded with three main findings. The first of them is that personal fable scores increased with age, the second is that males scored higher than females, and final one is that there is a significant positive correlation between personal fable and risk taking.

The article states that there are two contributions of the study to the literature. One is the introduction of newly constructed measure of personal fable which is shorter compared to previous personal fable scales, and the other is that measuring risk-taking potential of the adolescent with personal fable scale can result with taking some preventive interventions. I think there is one more contribution of the study to the literature. Thanks to new PF scale, the researchers also can find the adolescents with low personal fable who think themselves weaker than their friends in my opinion. I think they have low self-efficacy and they feel hopeless and depressed; therefore, they are more likely to avoid taking risks in most of the life situations. In this situation, PF scale works for identification of the adolescents with low personal fable and provides interventions that will be able to guide them by showing their unique characteristics different from others and by explaining how to cope with difficult circumstances. Consequently, it prevents the adolescents in this group from using drug and even attempting suicide.

Main limitations of the study as the article mentioned are that sample was of a limited demographic group and it could not say that personal fable and risk-taking results from developmental characteristics of the target group or from personality traits. To eliminate second limitation, questionnaires can be made with the parents of the adolescents in order to get information about current behaviors of the participants in risky situations and the behaviors when they were children because they can have chance to closely observe them and they are more likely to realize differences in their behaviors. Another limitation may be related to whether or not all participants have reached the formal operational stage of Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory to have ability to think abstractly and make comparison between themselves and others. If not, I think would not be useful to give them questionnaires in the study. This is because although age range of the participants in the study conforms to adolescent age group, it may not be certain that they are cognitively competent to have personal fable.

On the whole, thanks to this article, I learnt that personal fable changes with age and gender of the adolescents and it is positively correlated to risk-taking behaviors. With their personal fable scale, preventive interventions can made for decreasing risk-taking behaviors.

References

Alberts, A., Elkind, D., & Ginsberg, S. (2007). The personal fable and risk-taking in early adolescence. Youth Adolescence31, 71-76.