The teenage tricks being employed by doctors

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The Independent Online

The mind of an adolescent is like a bowl of fish chowder – full of impenetrable gloop but with interesting morsels for those willing to persevere.

Now, doctors have found a way of extracting the significant bits without stirring things up, by the simple device of asking their owner what they wish for.

Alongside questions about medical history, health, school, and drug use, a questionnaire given to young people before a doctor's appointment included this: "If you could have three wishes, what would they be?" The answers were more revealing than most parents learn from a month of monosyllabic grunts uttered across the dinner table. One child wrote: "I wish my mama felt better," giving a poignant insight into their family's dynamics.

Only 4 per cent said they wanted to be thinner and 8 per cent that they wanted to change their appearance – less than the researchers expected. Boys were much more likely to wish for things for themselves – 73 per cent versus 46 per cent of girls – while girls were more likely to wish for something for their families (26 per cent versus 9 per cent of boys). Boys wished more for success while girls wished more for happiness.

The commonest wishes were material – for a video games system, a car or the generic "to be wealthy" (41 per cent). But 20 per cent wished for world peace, or similar benefits for the world.

The findings are to be presented today to the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver, Colorado.