Many people face problems and challenging situations when they are at their adolescent stage. This is because the stage is a transition between adulthood and childhood. Adolescents have retained some elements of their childhood, and at the same time, they have the desire to progress to adulthood. Adolescents experience physical as well as emotional changes during this time (DiClemente et al., 2009). The changes that happen in the social emotional system of the brain contribute to risk taking behavior in adolescents. Many adolescents engage in behavior that older adults would not consider doing. They are more likely to engage in substance and alcohol use, as well as other risky behaviors such as fast driving and engaging in extreme sports. This is because of the differences in the maturity of the brain’s cognitive control system. Adolescents have an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for exercising self-control and reasoning, among other capabilities. As people become older, their cognitive control system develops. This system regulates the impulse control, thereby enhances a person’s ability to self-regulate (Steinberg, 2008). Other than brain development, other factors such as peer influence and parenting contribute to an adolescent’s level of risk taking behaviors.
Adolescents have the need to feel accepted by their peers. They are more likely to be influenced by peer pressure compared to other groups. This desire is sometimes so strong, to the extent that adolescents are willing to engage in anything so that they can be accepted in their crowds. Closely related to peer-influence is the adolescents’ belief of an imaginary audience. Adolescents tend to think that other people are preoccupied with them, in terms of their behavior and appearance. This leads them to live as if they are acting before an audience. They will look for ways to attract their audience at their own expense. Many adolescents develop the personal fable belief, which leads them to think that nothing wrong can happen to them. They think that they are unique or special in some way, and this leads them to dismiss the consequences of the challenges and risks that they face in life. Adolescents may know the consequences of engaging in risky behaviors, but they tend to think that they will not suffer the same consequences. They think that they are capable and strong enough, and they are therefore not vulnerable to some of the risks they take. The beliefs of personal fables and imaginary audience are the main elements that contribute to risk taking behaviors in adolescents (Galanaki, 2012).
Some risk taking behaviors among adolescents is dangerous and it has negative consequences. There is high mortality reported among adolescents and people in the early twenties. These deaths occur because of engaging in violent acts that lead to injury or death such as motor vehicle accidents, using drugs and alcohol, which leads to increased road accidents, and engaging in risky sexual behavior. The desire that adolescents have to fit in with their peers can sometimes lead to unhealthy eating patterns. Despite this, some effects of risky behavior have positive consequences. In fact, many people consider risk-taking behavior among adolescents as a normal process, which is necessary for life. Adolescents may engage in some behaviors that contribute to them learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge, which might benefit them in future (OPA, 2009). Most people get to learn their talents and practice them when they are adolescents. Engaging in risk taking behavior enables the adolescents to know more about themselves and discover their own identity. They also learn more about others and about the world, enabling them to work and cooperate better with other people. This knowledge is essential for life because it prepares the adolescents for the diverse world.
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