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Adolescent Development Toolkit


Toolkit: Risk Taking

Resources in this section, including talks by prominent researchers, take a deeper look into adolescent risk taking. Why are adolescents prone to taking risks? What is going on in the brain? How do peers affect risk taking behaviors?

Teens and Risk Taking

Instead of conceptualizing all risk taking as negative, it is important to acknowledge its developmental purpose and provide opportunities for adolescents to take healthy risks that will help them learn, grow, and thrive. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Video: Teens and Risk Taking (2 minutes)

The Science Behind Adolescent Risk Taking and Exploration

It's not only normal for adolescents to take risks and try new things, it's an essential part of learning during these years. Recent research helps us understand why we're more likely to approach things that feel uncertain or scary during adolescence, and why these risks are so important to learning and development. UCLA Center for the Developing Adolescent.

Fact Sheet: Science Behind Risk Taking

Adolescent Risk-Takers: The Power of Peers

In this video, neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains the science of peer-influence, and a group of adolescents give their own perspective on the risky business of being a teenager. Nature.

Video: Adolescent Risk Takers (5 minutes)

Why are Teen Brains Designed for Risk-taking?

In this brief article, the author discusses the influence of peers as well as brain development on adolescent risk-taking. Psychology Today.


Why Teens Take Risks

Many people have come to believe that adolescents take risks because their brains' executive function has not fully developed. In this article, researchers propose that it is not lack of control that underlies risk taking but lack of experience. Science Daily.


A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk Taking

Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University, presents the results of his research on the underpinnings of risk taking in adolescence. Steinberg's work is informed by recent advances in developmental neuroscience. Cornell University.

Video (83 minutes)

Laurence Steinberg

Laurence Steinberg, a prominent developmental psychologist, has focused his research for many years on adolescent development, decision making, and risk taking. This web page lists his published articles and books. All articles are available as PDFs for download.


Finding the Roots of Risky Behavior in the Teen Brain

When faced with risky situations, how do adolescents make decisions? Valerie Reyna, professor of human development at Cornell University, presents her research. Cornell University.

Video (84 minutes)

Adolescents and Risk: Helping Young People Make Better Choices

Drawing on the research of Valerie Reyna and colleagues, this article addresses the "immortality myth" and explores how adolescents actually consider risk. The article also offers suggestions for new intervention strategies. ACT for Youth.

Fact Sheet

Formatted for Screen Readers

Adolescent Risk Taking

Developed for community educators, this presentation may be used to provide information on adolescent development and risk taking to parents, youth workers, and other community sectors. The talk can be tailored to the target audience. Notes are included. ACT for Youth.

PowerPoint Presentation

PDF Format

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