Risky Business: Executive Function, Personality Essay

1226 Words Dec 26th, 2012 5 Pages
Risky Business: Executive Function, Personality, and Reckless Behavior
During Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
Henry Pharo, Clark Sim, Mikala Graham, Julien Gross, and Harlene Hayne
University of Otago
Adolescence is a risky business. Despite outstanding physical health, the risk of injury or death during adolescence is 2–3 times that of childhood. The primary cause of this increase in morbidity and mortality is heightened risky behavior including drinking, driving, drug-taking, smoking, and unprotected sex.
Why is it that some adolescents take big risks, while others do not? One potential source of individual differences in risk-taking behavior may lie in individual differences in executive function including judgment, impulse
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Some statistics indicate that mortality rates during adolescence increase by as much as 200% from middle childhood (Dahl, 2004; Spear, 2000).
This increase in morbidity and mortality has, in part, been attributed to a sharp rise in risky and antisocial behavior during adolescence
(Arnett, 1992; Moffitt, 1993). For example, adolescents are more likely than both children and adults to abuse alcohol, use illicit substances, have unprotected sex, commit antisocial acts, drive recklessly, and drive while intoxicated (Steinberg, 2004).
But why do adolescents engage in risky behavior? For some researchers, and indeed for many concerned members of the general public, the hormonal changes that accompany puberty are thought to be responsible for reckless or risky adolescent behavior
(Dahl, 2004). Consistent with this view, some researchers have documented an association between the timing of puberty and the emergence of risk-taking and delinquent behaviors. Although early puberty is related to increased risk involvement (Caspi, Lynam,
Moffitt, & Silva, 1993; Martin et al., 2002; Williams & Dunlop,
1999), the situation is complicated by the mediating role of experience.
For example, Caspi et al. (1993) found that, although girls who entered puberty earlier were more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors at age 15 than girls who entered puberty later, this effect was only

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