With Teena Willoughby, Taylor Heffer, and Carly Magnacca. In Developmental Review 61 (Sept 2021)

Adolescence often is thought to be the age period of heightened risk taking (e.g., substance use, reckless driving, sexual risks, delinquency) by both researchers and the general public. In the present article we challenge this assumption by examining the prevalence of a wide variety of real-world risk-taking behaviors across different age groups. Focusing on North American data, we first explore types of risk-taking behaviors across different age groups, both within and across different domains of risk taking. Second, we consider historical trends in risk taking, given that prevalence and types of risk-taking behaviors can change over time. Overall, our review highlights that emerging adulthood (i.e., 19–29 years of age) is the age period when risk taking is most prevalent across multiple domains. Risk taking in many domains, however, is common across the entire adult lifespan, sometimes with the appearance of minimal differences among emerging adults and adults. Moreover, while the majority of risk-taking behaviors have declined over time, this pattern is not consistent for all behaviors and all age groups. Thus, our understanding of whether adolescence is a heightened period of risk taking requires answering the questions: “For what type of risk taking” and “How does that type of risk-taking behavior change or not change across age and historical time periods?”

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Dr. Marie Good

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Science Direct

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