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Values: What are they and why are they important?

Activities that a teen enjoys tends to be linked to their values. We discuss how different these can be, and how they can encourage positive thinking.
Values are how you’d like to approach different areas of your life, and what really matters to you. Values give you a sense of purpose and meaning.
© University of Reading

Values are what we feel are personally important – what matters to us (rather than what matters to friends, family, or others around you).

The aim behind changing behaviour in depression is to increase a person’s exposure to diverse and stable sources of positive reinforcement (in other words, a variety of different, reliable ways to make them feel good). Activities that are meaningful and likely to be reinforcing for an individual tend to be linked to their values, and what they view as important in their life. The exact same activity might be very rewarding for one person, but another person’s idea of a punishment. The table below shows how three teenagers have very different ideas of valued activities.

Rav’s valued activities Ben’s valued activities Jessie’s valued activities
Drama classes Horse riding Learning Spanish
BMX riding Baking Helping out with the gardening
Spending time with his cousins Drawing anime characters Doing her paper round

Adolescence is a key time of identity development, so most teenagers are thinking about what’s important to them, even if it’s not often a topic of discussion. Many of these values are influenced by family shared values, society, and peers. It can also be the case that teenagers identify with certain values they don’t share with others, and this is ok too.

Take a look at the example Values sheets for a parent Carol and teenager Ellie. After reviewing these sheets, take a few minutes to think about your own values and add them to this Life Areas values sheet here.

You can also find these Value sheets at the bottom of the Step to download and print out.

© University of Reading
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