THE SCIENCE OF ADOLESCENT RISK-TAKING
INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE AND
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Award No. HHSP23320042509XI and N01-OD-4-2139, TO 211 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), within the Department of Health and Human Services. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council). 2011. The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking: Workshop Report. Committee on the Science of Adolescence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
COMMITTEE ON THE SCIENCE OF ADOLESCENCE
LAURENCE STEINBERG (Chair),
Department of Psychology, Temple University
ROBERT WM. BLUM,
Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University
B. BRADFORD BROWN,
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin
B. J. CASEY,
Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University
JAMES J. JACCARD,
Department of Psychology, Florida International University
D. WAYNE OSGOOD,
Department of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University
DANIEL S. PINE,
Division of Intramural Research Programs, National Institute of Mental Health
Departments of Human Development and Psychology, Cornell University
ELIZABETH J. SUSMAN,
Department of Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University
MARC A. ZIMMERMAN,
School of Public Health, University of Michigan
JENNIFER APPLETON GOOTMAN, Study Director
ALEXANDRA BEATTY, Senior Program Officer
REINE Y. HOMAWOO, Senior Program Assistant
WENDY KEENAN, Program Associate
ROSEMARY CHALK, Director,
Board on Children, Youth, and Families
This workshop report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Trina Anglin, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Rockville, MD
Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
David W. Kaplan, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver
Susan Newcomer, NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch, Rockville, MD
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they did not see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Nancy E. Adler,
Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and Center for Health and Community, University of California, San Francisco. Appointed by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authors and the institution.
The Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF) of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council (NRC) has organized a series of planning meetings, workshops, and consensus studies over the past decade that address different facets of adolescent health and development (see www.bocyf.org). One focus of this work involves threats to adolescent health and well-being that inhere in young people’s inclination to engage in risky and reckless behavior. While many of these risks also affect young and even older adults, the circumstances of adolescence—including rapid developmental changes and physical growth as well as family and social contexts—mean that risk behavior at this stage is different in significant ways from adult behavior. The board has found considerable evidence that the greatest contributors to morbidity and mortality in adolescence are not disease and illness, but instead such behaviors as unsafe driving; experimentation with alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs; involvement in crime; and unsafe sex (NRC and IOM, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007).
Although significant progress has occurred in the study of adolescent risk-taking, the board observed that findings from this body of work had not been integrated across disciplines (e.g., neuroscience, psychology, sociology, public health) or risk domains (e.g., substance use, sexual risk-taking, delinquency). The board further thought that prevention and health promotion efforts would be informed by a systematic examination of current theory and research on adolescent risk-taking that drew on contributions from multiple disciplines and that focused on different risk behaviors.
From these decisions emerged a proposal for a series of workshops that would bring together scientists from a broad array of disciplines, including researchers who study adolescent brain, pubertal, cognitive, and psychosocial development; the influences of the family, peer group, school, neighborhood, community, and mass media on adolescent behavior; adolescent physical health, mental health, substance use, delinquency, sexual behavior, and driving; and approaches to the prevention of unhealthy adolescent risk-taking. The workshops and the formation of the committee that helped plan and convene them were funded by three offices in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: the Administration for Children and Families; the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The first of the three workshops convened by the Committee on the Science of Adolescence focused on the prevalence and nature of adolescent risk-taking and on the potential contributions of the neural, biological, intellectual, and socioemotional developments characteristic of adolescence. The second workshop examined interpersonal, institutional, and contextual influences on adolescent risk behavior. The final workshop integrated lessons learned from the previous two workshops, combining the prior emphases on individual and contextual influences and examining the potential implications of this work for policy and practice.
This report summarizes the presentations and discussions from the three workshops.1 It can serve to introduce readers to a small portion of current theory and research on contributors to risky behavior in adolescence. It is not intended as a comprehensive summary of the existing body of literature, nor does it make any specific recommendations. Its purpose is to stimulate further work on the subject and to encourage more of the cross-disciplinary thinking that characterized the workshops themselves. It is important to note that the workshop presenters were given a range of assignments and also took different approaches in their presentations. Some provided detailed overviews of research literature, whereas others were asked to discuss theoretical issues more abstractly or to explore links among different disciplines. This summary, which can only describe what was presented, reflects these variations and thus some sections include more thorough supporting citations than others.
We are particularly grateful for the contributions of the expert presenters, paper authors, and workshop participants who contributed to the meeting (see the appendixes for the workshop agendas and lists of participants). Special appreciation also goes to the members of the com-
Presentation materials from these workshops are available at http://www.bocyf.org/adolescent_science_3workshops.html.
mittee, who volunteered their time and intellectual efforts to shape the workshop programs and identify themes and contributors. In addition, we give special thanks to Alexandra Beatty, who prepared a comprehensive draft of the summary report; Jennifer Appleton Gootman, who directed the planning and workshops preparation and the production of the final publication; and Reine Y. Homawoo and Wendy Keenan, who assisted with preparation of the workshops and the final report.
Laurence Steinberg, Chair
Committee on the Science of Adolescence