Posted by & filed under Aggression, Health Psychology, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Research Methods.

Description: So we all know that teenagers are reckless right? By that, we mean that teenagers take more risks in their day-to-day lives when making decisions about what to do compared to younger and older people. There is not a lot of debate about this and usually we ascribe this observation to biological/developmental causes such as frontal lobe development lagging behind the development of other brain areas, over-functioning of the reward monitoring systems in the central core of the brain, and cognitive factors that permit an awareness of risk but that also involves a belief that risks will not actually be realized by the individual teens who think about them – they think they are invulnerable or will be able to avoid calamity if risks arise. Simple right? Well, no. Think about what other factors might bear on the levels of adolescent risk taking and think about how we might investigate these other factors on a large scale. After you have put a few thought together read the article linked below and see that some researchers have done in this area.

Source: Teenagers Do Dumb Things, but There Are Ways to Limit Recklessness, Lisa Damour, Adolescence, Well, Family, New York Times.

Date: March 8, 2017


Links:  Article Link —

The researchers whose work is discussed in the article noted at the outset the fact that while sensation (risk) seeking peaks around 19 years of age and then declines, self-regulation climbs gradually but steadily until about 23 or 24 years of age suggests different developmental origins for these two things. Further, their study looked at teens around the world and found some large differences from one country or culture to another. For example, only 2% of Indonesian teens reported trying alcohol in the past month compared to 50% of those in Argentina. Bottom line seems to be that risky behavioural tendencies vary depending on who you are, where you are (being raised) and who you are with (peers etc). The researchers also suggest that how risk is presented and discussed with teens can make a difference in actual levels of risk. So, focusing not on whether or not one will get caught is not nearly as effective as focusing on the potential for self-harm in controlling risky behaviour.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How is teen biology involved in risk-taking?
  2. What social or cultural forces are at work (and do seem to work) in reducing risk-taking in teens?
  3. What sorts of programs or strategies should we consider using in trying to reduce teen risk exposure? Where should these interventions be deployed and by whom?

References (Read Further):

Steinberg, L., Icenogle, G., Shulman, E. P., Breiner, K., Chein, J., Bacchini, D., … & Fanti, K. A. (2017). Around the world, adolescence is a time of heightened sensation seeking and immature self‐regulation. Developmental Science.


Shulman, E. P., Smith, A. R., Silva, K., Icenogle, G., Duell, N., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2016). The dual systems model: Review, reappraisal, and reaffirmation. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 17, 103-117.

Reyna, V. F., & Rivers, S. E. (2008). Current theories of risk and rational decision making. Developmental review: DR, 28(1), 1.

World Health Organization (2011) Global status report on alcohol and health.

Reyna, V. F., & Mills, B. A. (2014). Theoretically motivated interventions for reducing sexual risk taking in adolescence: A randomized controlled experiment applying fuzzy-trace theory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(4), 1627.