At-risk behavior is anything that puts youth at risk for future negative consequenceslike poor health, injury or death. And while risky behavior as a teen isn't a new concept most adults can likely recall at least a few poor choices they made as a teenthe type of risks teens are taking are shifting. One of the reasons risky behavior is so common during adolescence is because the teen brain isn't yet fully developed.
Reckless driving, binge drinking, drug taking -- it is well known that adolescents are more likely than adults to engage in risky and impulsive behavior. A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development provides new insights into these risky decisions. The findings show that, relative to children and adults, adolescents are less interested in information that would help them to gauge the risks of their behavior.
But why did we, as teens, get pulled toward taking dangerous chances in the first place? These questions are at the heart of Jess P. Chronicling the latest research on the adolescent brain and effective parenting programs, he provides a path for parents, teachers, and others who want to help guide kids toward making better choices around risk.
So, why do they do it? In short, because the impulse and consequences feels good. It is normal for teenagers to push boundaries and take risks.
A popular theory in recent neuroscience proposes that slow development of the prefrontal cortex -- and its weak connectivity with brain reward regions -- explains teenagers' seemingly impulsive and risky behavior. But an extensive literature review to be published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience challenges that interpretation. The researchers examined the evidence behind that argument and found that much of it misinterpreted adolescent exploratory behavior as impulsive and lacking in control.
Credit: Getty Images. In a literature review, researchers examined the evidence behind that argument and found that much of it misinterpreted adolescent exploratory behavior as impulsive and lacking in control. Instead, the review suggests that much of what looks like adolescent impulsivity is behavior that is often guided by the desire to learn about the world.
Adolescence is characterised by rapid changes in physical, cognitive and social development, beginning with puberty and ending in the acquisition of adult roles and responsibilities. In recent times, we have considered the developmental period of adolescence to extend from about 10 years of age into young adulthood, reflecting the longer time frames for developmental transition in four key areas: biological and sexual maturation, personal identity formation, engagement in intimate sexual relationships with an appropriate peer, and establishment of social independence and autonomy. The major influences shaping the social world of adolescents extend beyond the family to include peers, educational contexts, employment and the media.
Teenagers need to explore their own limits and abilities, as well as the boundaries you set. They also need to express themselves as individuals. This means teenagers are sometimes more likely than adults to make quick decisions without always thinking through the consequences. Teenage interest in new experiences and thrill-seeking can include less concerning behaviour, like trying new tricks at the skate park.
Testing boundaries and taking some risks is a healthy way for your child to learn limits. But you might worry about them getting hurt or worse. There are many different forms of risk taking.
Teens take risks. Some will do drugs, drink to excess, shoplift, and worse—activities that studies show are associated with problems later in life, including depression and anxiety. But risk-taking is part of growing up, too, helping teens to develop independence and identities—to start becoming adults.