factors are unimportant. The experience of adolescence—and patterns of risk-taking—are likely to vary in important ways around the world. However, very little research has been conducted on cross-national variation in adolescent risk behavior; consequently, this report reflects the fact that the bulk of the research currently available draws on data collected in the United States.


Following this introduction, Chapter 2 sets the stage for an exploration of the research by providing a portrait of the physical and mental health status of adolescents in the United States and describes the risks some young people are taking. The next three chapters describe theoretical explanations for why adolescence is a high-risk stage of development and why some adolescents engage in more risky behaviors than others. Chapter 3 examines biobehavioral processes related to risk-taking, and Chapter 4 focuses on social and cognitive theories regarding decision making. Chapter 5 describes research on sociological and contextual factors and some of the variables that may help link context and behavior, such as values, social skills, and social supports. The closing chapter explores possibilities for integrating these perspectives, highlighting practical approaches to minimizing risk. It also describes specific areas in which additional research is needed.

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