Risk-taking is perhaps one of the most well-known attributes of the stereotypical adolescent. Research indicates that risk-taking increases from late childhood through the mid-teens and into the twenties, where it peaks around the mid-twenties, then gradually decreases.

In a laboratory driving game, adolescents took more driving risks when they were in the presence of their peers, showing the importance of peer influence for risky behaviour during adolescence. Neuroimaging evidence shows that adolescents have greater brain activity in reward-related brain regions when peers are watching. Risk-taking in the presence of peers is therefore more rewarding for adolescents than adults.

A recent theory suggests that adolescents are in fact more risk-averse than they are given credit for. During this period of social development, when teenagers are trying to establish themselves among their peers, they may see it as less risky to smoke a cigarette with friends than to risk being ostracised from their peers by not smoking. This has possible implications for school campaigns to reduce bullying for example, where peer opinions may have particular importance. How do you make use of this peer influence on decision-making at school?


Click on the topics below to find out more about the science in the film.

Sleep      ***      Hormonal Changes      ***      Prefrontal Changes
Inhibitory Control      ***      Mental Time Travel      ***      Limbic Changes
Sensation Seeking       ***       Risk taking       ***       Social Development
Theories of Adolescence      ***     Evolution      ***      Mental Health
Neuroconstructivism      ***     Educational Neuroscience


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