If you’re the parent of a teenager, you’re well acquainted with risky teen behaviors. Whether it’s skateboarding down the highway or chatting with strangers online, they tend to make reckless choices that put them in danger.

Most research up to this point has suggested these audacious actions are linked to underdevelopment in certain parts of the brain at this age–but a new study may have discovered that it’s much more curious in nature.

Are risky teen behaviors just curiosity?

In a new review published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, researchers believe that risky teen behavior may be connected to exploratory drive instead of underdevelopment of the brain.

Teens have less development in the prefrontal cortex, which helps us realize future consequences and plan accordingly, so neuroscientists have theorized that’s why risky teen behaviors are so prevalent. But this new review offered another explanation. The researchers in the review argue that exploratory teen behavior is often misinterpreted as impulsive or risky behavior. 


They believe that adolescents are simply driven by a curiosity about the world and testing the limits to further understand their surroundings. They think the reason teens are so “risky” is because they lack experience and they’re trying to gain it.

The lead author Daniel Romer, Ph.D., research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, explains their theory:
“The reason teens are doing all of this exploring and novelty seeking is to build experience so that they can do a better job in making the difficult and risky decisions in later life — decisions like ‘Should I take this job?’ or ‘Should I marry this person?’ There’s no doubt that this period of development is a challenge for parents, but that’s doesn’t mean that the adolescent brain is somehow deficient or lacking in control.”

More research needs to be done

While abnormalities in brain development can lead to serious impulsivity issues and risky teen behaviors, Romer believes that the majority of brash teen behavior isn’t abnormal and won’t lead to serious harm. But he maintains that it’s important to keep an eye on rebellious or risky teen behaviors to make sure they don’t get out of control or lead down a path of more serious issues.

Overall, even Romer says more research needs to be done to truly understand the effects of brain development on behaviors vs a teenager’s inexperience of life.
Understanding how these behaviors work in teenagers and what spurs them on is critical to developing ways to intervene when it becomes problematic. Studies like this have the potential to improve our ability to help and treat our students.

blueFire Wilderness is here for your family

blueFire Wilderness is a wilderness therapy program for teens. We help teens, ages 11 to 17, grappling with depression, ADHD, risky teen behaviors, defiance, and other emotional or behavioral problems.

At blueFire, we strive to help each client find their inner confidence and succeed. We believe that through a balance of self-assessment, insight oriented therapy, outdoor living, adventure activities and academic focus these teens will find their true selves. We provide a supportive opportunity for parents and children to reconnect and strengthen their relationship.
For more information about how we deal with risky teen behaviors at blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today.

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