Performance Improvement 2013-2014. What is the Current Science on Adolescent Risk-Taking?


Researchers reviewed the science of adolescence within a life course perspective and highlighted the implications of this research for preventing risk behavior. This effort examined scientific work on processes both within individuals and in the environment, including social factors that affect behavior during adolescence. The goals were to bridge multiple disciplines in the biological, health, social, and behavioral sciences; identify ways of integrating findings from each of these fields that can improve understanding of why adolescents engage in risky behavior; improve strategies for prevention and intervention; and flag areas in which further research is needed.

Adolescents are prone to novelty and take risks but lack mature capacity for self-regulation. They share to a greater or lesser degree, common mechanisms of influence that underlie risk-taking behaviors, including facets of brain development and biological processes, as well as social and developmental challenges. The interactions among these shared mechanisms and sources of individual variation in risk-taking are not yet fully understood. However, even among target populations of individuals with high levels of risk factors, only a subset typically encounters severe problems. Individual characteristics (such as high intelligence, self- confidence, and social and other competencies) offer protection from problem behaviors as do social and environmental opportunities (prosocial activities and influences; bonding with positive peers, adults, and institutions; and clear standards for healthy behavior).

Report Title: The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking: Workshop Report,
Agency Sponsor: OASPE, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Lisa Trivits, 202-205-5750
Performer: National Academy of Sciences, Board on Children, Youth, and Families
Record ID: 9526 (November 1, 2011)

View full report


"PerformanceImprovement2014.pdf" (pdf, 671.65Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®