Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Adolescent risk taking under stressed and nonstressed conditions: conservative, calculating, and impulsive types

TitleAdolescent risk taking under stressed and nonstressed conditions: conservative, calculating, and impulsive types
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsJohnson, SB, Dariotis, JK, Wang, C
JournalThe Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine
Date PublishedAug
ISBN Number1879-1972; 1054-139X
Accession Number22794532
Keywords*Risk-Taking, Adolescent, Adolescent Behavior/*psychology, Age Factors, Comorbidity, Decision Making, Exploratory Behavior, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Impulsive Behavior/epidemiology/*psychology, Internal-External Control, Juvenile Delinquency/*psychology/statistics & numerical data, Male, peer group, Risk Factors, Stress, Psychological/epidemiology/*psychology, Violence/psychology

PURPOSE: Adolescent risk taking may result from heightened susceptibility to environmental cues, particularly emotion and potential rewards. This study evaluated the impact of social stress on adolescent risk taking, accounting for individual differences in risk taking under nonstressed conditions. METHODS: Eighty-nine older adolescents completed a computerized risk-taking and decision-making battery at baseline. At follow-up, participants were randomized to a control condition, which repeated this battery, or an experimental condition, which included a social and cognitive stressor before the battery. Baseline risk-taking data were cluster-analyzed to create groups of adolescents with similar risk-taking tendencies. The degree to which these risk-taking tendencies predicted risk taking by stress condition was assessed at follow-up. RESULTS: Participants in the stress condition took more risks than those in the no-stress condition. However, differences in risk taking under stress were related to baseline risk-taking tendencies. We observed three types of risk-takers: conservative, calculated, and impulsive. Impulsives were less accurate and planful under stress; calculated risk takers took fewer risks; and conservatives engaged in low risk taking regardless of stress. CONCLUSIONS: As a group, adolescents are more likely to take risks in "hot cognitive" than in "cold cognitive" situations. However, there is significant variability in adolescents' behavioral responses to stress related to trait-level risk-taking tendencies.