Teenagers who copy their friends’ risk-taking are more popular than those who don’t, research shows

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Researchers have shown that teenage boys are strongly influenced by the risk taking actions of their male peers when deciding their own behaviour. The areas of the brain that control decision-making don


Teens who go off the rails and copy the risk-taking behaviour of others are more likely to be popular and have more friends

  • Teenage boys are more likely to take risks if they know their friends are doing it 
  • They were influenced only by those of the same age group not by older males
  • Teenagers who copied their friends’ behaviour were also more popular 
  • YouTube stars could have more influence over teenage viewers than they think 

Researchers have shown that teenage boys are strongly influenced by the risk taking actions of their male peers when deciding their own behaviour. 

These teenagers are also likely to be more popular than those less easily influenced. 

The study from Germany, used gambling games to show that teenage boys picked riskier action if they saw their friends did, compared to when alone. 

It could explain why reckless behaviour, such as binge drinking and joy riding, are easily spread among young social groups. 

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Researchers have shown that teenage boys are strongly influenced by the risk taking actions of their male peers when deciding their own behaviour. The areas of the brain that control decision-making don’t fully develop until early adulthood (stock)

Teenage boys between the age of 12 and 15 made up half of the study which conducted by the Dresden University of Technology.

The study included 86 male volunteers with the remainder participants being male adults.  

The volunteers given a series of gambling games where they had to chose a guaranteed payout of €5 or forsake it for higher payout of €50 which was they were less likely to win. 

The teenagers took greater risks on the payout when they knew that other teenager participants were doing the same compared to when they were alone.

 Andrea Reiter at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, who lead the study told New Scientist: ‘There is this stereotype, but teens were not more risk-seeking when tested alone’.   

The latest study showed that teenage boys were strongly influenced by the actions of other teenage boys  when deciding whether to take risks on a gambling game used during the study (stock)

The latest study showed that teenage boys were strongly influenced by the actions of other teenage boys  when deciding whether to take risks on a gambling game used during the study (stock)

Overall however, adult men were showed higher risk tendencies than their younger peers.   

The actions of the adult males, also did not influence the younger participants. 

This suggests that it is more complicated than just a matter of teenagers being more easily influenced. 

The researchers have suggested that the change in decision making towards higher risk is an evolutionary trait and gave teenagers who did so more popularity.   

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.   

THE SIX STEPS TO ENCOURAGE BETTER TEEN DECISION-MAKING

Good decision-making skills can be learned, and there are six key steps parents can employ to encourage better teen decision-making, according to James McCue, a lecturer in psychology and criminology at Edith Cowan University.

  1. Be aware of upcoming events that may present teenagers with decisions that need to be made. Listen to their expectations about the events (such as whether they expect to drink alcohol)
  2. Present scenarios which may present a risk, or will require a decision (such as missing the train home, friends becoming intoxicated) to explore healthy, or safer choices
  3. Encourage your teenager to stop and think. Help them recognise ‘when in the moment’ to temporarily remove themselves from a situation to help them make decisions away from direct pressures (go to the bathroom, make a phone call, text a friend)
  4. Provide a decision-making compass. Although teenagers are not able to consider all of the potential consequences of a situation, to check whether a decision is a good one, get them to consider whether they would tell you about their decision (‘would I want mum/dad/grandma/grandpa to know about what I’m about do?’)
  5. Remind teenagers to ask for help. They don’t have to make choices alone. Ensure they save contact details of people who can be available to talk through options if they’re in a difficult situation (siblings, parents, or extended family)
  6. Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Teenagers may make some wrong choices. Use these lived experiences to generate discussion about where the decision making went wrong, and how to make better choices in the future.

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