Adolescents Talking about Personal Responsibility

  • Dr Amanda Mergler
  • Prof Wendy Patton
Keywords: personal responsibility, adolescence, moral development, cognitive development, choices, behaviour, consequences


The role of personal responsibility in the lives of adolescents remains a largely overlooked area in the psychological and educational fields. The present study used focus groups of 20 white, middle-class adolescents to examine how they understand and integrate the notion of personal responsibility into their lives. Key themes, including awareness of thoughts and feelings, behavioural choices and control, and consideration of consequences were found to be important components of the personal responsibility variable. Interesting gender differences were noted, with females and males identifying different emotions as being within or outside their control, and only females said that concern for the feelings of others was a major factor in decision-making. The key themes served to generate parameters with which to define the personal responsibility variable.