If offered three wishes, only 14 percent of teens ask for more wishes or fantastical powers.
The fanciful question -- what would you do with three wishes? -- revealed some other insights into the desires of teen patients receiving routine medical care at a clinic at the North Carolina Children's Hospital where researchers analyzed their answers.
Of 110 participants ages 11 to 18, an unexpected result arose in boys' and girls' answers.
"We went into the study with the typical stereotypes expecting to find a lot about girls' wishes to lose 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) or other appearance-related things, and boys wanting to be NFL stars or to play hoops," said Eliana Perrin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and pediatrician at the hospital. She uses these survey questions to get know her patients.
But the survey revealed no difference between boys' and girls' desire for a change of appearance (8 percent overall wished for it, with about half of these wishing to be thinner) and their desire for athletic success (16 percent overall), with no skew toward either sex. Other differences between the genders, however, were evident: Boys were more likely to make wishes for themselves than girls, and boys wished more for success, while girls wished more for happiness.
Results showed that 85 percent of adolescents had wishes for themselves, 32 percent had wishes for others, and 10 percent had a wish for both themselves and others. While economics did factor in -- privately insured teens were more likely than other children to have wishes for the world -- the researchers found no differences in wishes by age or race and ethnicity. [Study Exposes 'Generation Me']
The survey, part of the American Medical Association's Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services program, also includes questions about medical history, health, school, safety and substance use.
"In addition to the standard wishes 'to be a millionaire' or 'for a new car,' some teens provided poignant answers like 'I wish my mom didn't have cancer' or 'I wish I could solve global warming' -- just really thoughtful expressions," Perin said.
Perin and the other researchers hope to extend the same study to other sites where the survey is used. The results were presented yesterday (May 2) at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.