Assessing Adolescents: Introduction | Beginning the Assessment | The Adolescent Interview | Mental Status Examination | The Parent Interview | Family Assessment | Standardized Measures | Presenting the Findings | Research Directions | Summary Points | References
The psychiatric assessment of adolescents is
more similar to assessment of adults than is the assessment of younger
children. Adolescents are able to give historical information, verbalize
feelings, be introspective, and many are able to think abstractly. However,
clinicians assessing adolescents should be aware that adolescents
are not just younger adults. Adolescents live in a complex web of
interdependent relationships within their family, peer group, school, agencies
(e.g., social services, juvenile justice), and broader community
and cultural groups. The assessment of adults typically relies almost
solely on that adult's report of symptoms and problems.
To do this with adolescents would be a grave mistake. Developmental
considerations are of critical importance in the assessment of adolescents.
The brain continues to develop into the early 20s, especially the
areas involved in executive functions such as inhibition, impulse
control, and critical decision making (see for example, Sowell et al. 2001). Developmental immaturity of the brain places
adolescents at much higher risk for multiple problems, including
violence and aggression, substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents,
and risky sexual behavior.