Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Evidence in Adolescent Risk Taking

If you’ve ever been around a teenager, you’ve likely heard the line, “What were you thinking?” The thought process of teenagers has not only been a mystery to most of the parents and adults who live and work with teens, but has been the center of numerous studies trying to unravel the logic, or perceived lack thereof, of the teenage brain.

Conventional wisdom and years of research have pointed to the sense of invincibility teens seem to enjoy, or the lack of ability to reason due to incomplete brain development, as causes for high risk teen behaviors. However, according to a recent report from researchers at Cornell and Temple Universities, on many occasions teens may actually be more rational in their judgments than adults.

They explain that while adults don’t take the time to calculate the risks of certain behaviors because they are already intuitively aware of them and wouldn’t even consider taking such risks, teens do take the time to weigh the risks and benefits. Some teens seek the thrill of frisk taking and will choose the risk because they believe the short-term benefits out-weigh the long-term consequences - even when they completely understand those consequences. Other teens may not intend to take the risks, but do so on impulse or under the influence of emotion.

The researchers point out that intervention messages that warn teens or risks may actually backfire among the teens who are drawn to risk because such messages become appealing. Instead they recommend interventions that help youth develop more mature, intuitive reactions that help them to avoid taking risks altogether!

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