Understanding Adolescent Risk-Taking
This section looks at adolescent health risk behaviors, the biological basis for risk-taking, and why adolescents take those risks knowing there are inherent dangers or consequences for their behaviors.
Adolescents are at the peak of their physical strength, resilience, and immune function of their lifecycles. Yet mortality rates for 15 - 24 year olds are more than triple the mortality rates of grade school children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified three behaviors contributing to the leading causes for death and illness in adolescents.1
Adolescents take risks to test and define themselves. Risk-taking is both beneficial and harmful. It can lead to situations where new skills are learned and new experiences can prepare them for future challenges. Risk-taking serves as a means for discovery about oneself, others and the larger world. The natural and normative proclivity for risk-taking plays a central role in adolescent development, making it a time of both great potential and great vulnerability.
Having knowledge of adolescent brain development can help program staff understand why teens take risks and that risk-taking behavior is a normal and necessary part of adolescence. This knowledge can also assist in developing effective interventions that focus on reducing the harm associated with risk-taking behavior.2