Health risks differ across an individual’s life span and one reason for this is that adolescents take more risks than adults and younger children (Taylor & Sirois, 2011). The greatest threat to an adolescents health often come from preventable causes, this can be seen in the fact that adolescents have the highest rates of crime, auto mobile accidents, violence, drug and alcohol use and sexual risk taking than all other age groups (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). Many of the current risk taking prevention methods such as the DARE program are largely ineffective which suggests that a lot of the current thoughts of risk taking in adolescence is wrong (Taylor & Sirois, 2011). One of the major challenges for psychologists is to try and understand why risk taking is more common in adolescence than in other periods of life. This paper will look at recent studies to help explain why adolescents have high rates of risk taking compared to other age groups looking at the neurodevelopmental side of things and the effect of peer presence on adolescents. It will also try to propose new research directions that can hopefully help decrease risk-taking in adolescents.
The presence of peers has a big effect on the risk taking in adolescents (Albert et al, 2013). A study in 2005 by Gardner and Steinberg examined the effect of peers in risk taking on three age groups; early adolescents, late adolescents and middle aged adults. The participants would participate in a computerized driving “chicken game” in which it would challenge the drivers to get as far around a track as possible while avoiding crashing into a randomized wall that may appear (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). The computer would randomly choose if there were to be a single player game or a three-player game with same aged peers (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). The results showed that while alone all age groups seemed to engage in a relatively the same amount of risk taking (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). With peers however the young adolescents engaged in twice as much risk taking, while the older adolescents scored 50% higher, and adults showed no difference (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). The study was the first to examine age difference in the effect of peers and risk taking and proved its effect. This study supports the fact that peers have an effect on risk taking but doesn’t explain the reason why. It also shows that the presence peers have no effect on adults leading one to believe it may be neurological.
One article by Laurence Steinberg in 2007 looks at neuroscience as a way of studying adolescent risk taking. This perspective shows that logical reasoning and psychosocial factors, the interrelation of social factors and individual thought, influence risk taking in an individual (Steinberg, 2007). While logical reasoning seems to be fully developed by the age of fifteen, the psychosocial factors continue to mature well into adulthood (Steinberg, 2007). The more the psychosocial factors are...