Leiden Psychology Blog

Understanding risk-taking in adolescence

Understanding risk-taking in adolescence

Whether adolescence was relatively peaceful or full of teenage angst, none of us is likely to forget it. A special time in life, when we begin discovering who we might become, exploring possibilities and taking risks that accompany experimenting with life.

Kiki Zanolie wanted to understand what is happening in the adolescent brain to cause all this risk-taking. As teenagers, our brains are still developing; in what way, specifically, may hold the answer to that question. 

Tumultuous teenage years

Several areas of the brain are important for making decisions: one is involved on the emotional level, another in helping us plan our behavior or stop it when we know it’s harmful. Research has shown that, during adolescence, the emotional zone has already developed, but its rational counterpart has not. This imbalance could explain why in social settings, with their emotions fully charged, teenagers may make choices they know to be risky. This is a perfectly normal part of growing up, and Zanolie hopes that by understanding what adolescents are experiencing and why, we can help them safely navigate their sometimes tumultuous teenage years.  

Watch Zanolie's video blog, made possible by the AXA Research Fund

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