Risk-Seeking Behaviors in Teens

By Misty Posted March 14, 2011 under Recognizing Warning Signs

It’s no mystery that our children’s friends have a formidable effect on their interests and actions, especially in their teen years. New findings from a Temple University study highlight just how much teens’ decisions are based on peer influence and the results are alarming.

The study, which used brain scans to analyze perceived risk and reward in teens, found that teens are much more likely to partake in risky behavior when they are with friends than when they are alone.

As Dr. Laurence Steinberg, an author of the study, mentioned in a New York Times article:

“All of us who have very good kids know they’ve done really dumb things when they’ve been with their friends. The lesson is that if you have a kid whom you think of as very mature and able to exercise good judgment, based on your observations when he or she is alone or with you, that doesn’t necessarily generalize to how he or she will behave in a group of friends without adults around. Parents should be aware of that.”

Being aware of the effect that peer influence has on teen behavior is a great first step. However, you can also build trust with your teen and be a positive influence in his or her life by teaching him or her about negative behaviors. If your teen never hears from you about the dangers of participating with friends in something like medicine abuse, he or she may not understand the consequences.

What can you do to help teens make the right decision? There are a few actions you can take to protect teens from risky behaviors like medicine abuse:

  • Get to know your teens’ friends and their parents;
  • Observe the way your teens interact with their friends and express concern for risk-seeking behaviors;
  • Stay informed about popular risk-seeking behaviors among teens;
  • Help your teens’ build good judgment by discussing consequences of risky behaviors observed in the media or in your community; and
  • Discuss ways to resist peer pressure with your teens.

Do you have any other tips to share with parents? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.