Teenagers are risk takers. Sometimes this risk taking is exciting. Sometimes it is stupid.
Did you really think your dad wouldn’t notice that you slipped out of the house at 1 a.m. and drove his car to your friend’s house the day after you got your driver’s permit?
Dan Romer, the research director at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, recently published his theory about why teens take stupid risks.
Romer said that research studies show that risky behavior is a normal part of teen development. Risky behavior also reflects a biologically driven need to explore and that this exploration helps teens with the difficult decisions they will need to make as they age.
Romer explains that dopamine in the brain rises during teen years and seems to have an increased attraction to intense and exciting experiences.
Sensation seeking behavior also goes with increasing levels of cognitive control that occur at the same time that teens have a drive to explore.
Romer wrote that, “This ability to exert cognitive control peaks well before structural brain maturation, which peaks at about age 25.”
While teens may seem to take stupid risks, research experiments show that where the probabilities of their risks are known, teens take fewer risks than children. Children are more impulsive than teens and teens are somewhat more impulsive than adults.
Teens are immature because they need to experience life, which makes them more likely to misunderstand situations. It is because adolescents are immature in regard to experience that they are more vulnerable to mishaps. For those with weak cognitive control, the risks are even greater.
Regardless, we should not let stereotypes of this immaturity color our interpretation of what they are doing. Teenagers are just learning to be adults and this inevitably involves a certain degree of risk.
As teens become adults, they will gain more experience, which helps them make better decisions. Teens who have fragile cognitive control will experience higher risks than the ones who have strong cognitive control.
Kids grow into teens who then become adults.
I go with the research proven because their brains are not fully developed yet. They are still learning what’s right from wrong and everyone learns by different experiences.
Teens’ risky behavior is only because their brains are still growing. In reality, teens are doing what they are supposed to do— explore and experience.
So, Mom and Dad, you understand now, right?