Risk taking adolescents
It is a well-known fact that risk taking behavior increases during adolescence. Adolescence occurs between the ages of thirteen and nineteen (Santrock, 2012). Research has shown that risk taking activities are most consistently seen between the ages of twelve and fifteen (Smith, Chein, & Steinberg, 2014). And new studies have shown that our brains continue developing until at least age twenty. We usually start to understand the concept that there is risk associated with our behavior by the time we are fourteen, but the ability to resist those risks doesn’t come until around age twenty (Jacobus, Thayer, Trim, Bava, Frank, & Tapert, 2013). Researchers continue to attempt to explain this spike of risky behavior during adolescence. This paper will be an examination of the factors that contribute to and effect the high level of risk taking that is prevalent among adolescents. It will focus on the neurological aspect of risk taking and how the brain factors in to the decisions we make as an adolescent.
An important part of the neurobiological research linked to risk taking in adolescence is the dual-systems biological model. This model suggests that two important systems in the brain are unbalanced during the adolescent years. The limbic system, which is related to feelings of pleasure and reward, seems to be more developed than the prefrontal cognitive control system. Since the prefrontal lobe of the brain may be underdeveloped at this age, it leaves adolescents vulnerable to making risky decisions by causing them to focus on the pleasure and adrenaline that risk can give. With less control over their urges, adolescents tend to engage in riskier behavior such as unsafe sex and drug use (Shulman, & Cauffman, 2014). Many studies have been conducted to support this data. One recent study that was done using a functional MRI scanner showed that adolescents had less frontal cortical activity compared to adults when making decisions involving...
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Jacobus, J., Thayer, R. E., Trim, R. S., Bava, S., Frank, L. R., & Tapert, S. F. (2013). White matter integrity, substance use, and risk taking in adolescence. Psychology Of Addictive Behaviors, 27(2), 431-442. doi:10.1037/a0028235
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Santrock, J. W. (2012). Adolescence. (14th ed.). New York City: McGraw-Hill.
Shulman, E. P., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Deciding in the dark: Age differences in intuitive risk judgment. Developmental Psychology, 50(1), 167-177. doi:10.1037/a0032778
Smith, A. R., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2014). Peers Increase Adolescent Risk Taking Even When the Probabilities of Negative Outcomes Are Known.Developmental Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0035696
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