Objectives: To investigate whether Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong share similar perceptions with their Western counterparts regarding their capacity for autonomous decision-making, and secondarily whether Chinese parents underestimate their adolescent children's desire and capacity for autonomous decision-making.
Method:‘Healthy Adolescents’ and their parents were recruited from four local secondary schools, and ‘Sick Adolescents’ and their parents from the pediatric wards and outpatient clinics. Their perceptions of adolescents' understanding of illnesses and treatments, maturity in judgment, risk-taking, openness to divergent opinions, pressure from parents and doctors, submission to parental authority and preference for autonomy in medical decision-making are surveyed by a 50-item questionnaire on a five-point Likert scale.
Results: Findings indicate that Chinese adolescents aged 14–16 perceive themselves to possess the necessary cognitive abilities and maturity in judgment to be autonomous decision-makers like their Western counterparts. Paradoxically, although they hesitate to assert their autonomy, they are also unwilling to surrender that autonomy to their parents even under coercion or intimidation. Parents tend to underestimate their adolescents' preferences for making autonomous decisions and overestimate the importance of parental authority in decision-making.
Conclusion:‘14-and-above’ Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong perceive themselves as capable of autonomous decision-making in medically-related matters, but hesitate to assert their autonomy, probably because of the Confucian values of parental authority and filial piety that are deeply embedded in the local culture.