When you were young, you wondered why your parents couldn’t understand your need to try everything out. Now that you’re a mother to a wild child, you wonder why you did all those crazy stunts in the first place. Apparently, that feeling of invincibility comes from more than just the hormones.

A group of psychologists at New York University has come up with a study that offers a possible explanation as to why teens take up reckless, but not necessarily risky, endeavors. The study, posted at LiveScience.com, says that like adults, teens are less likely to take unnecessary risks, especially if they know what may be at stake. However, they will take the plunge when the possibilities are more ambiguous. This is brought about by their easy acceptance of the unknown.

The study presented 33 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old and 32 adults aged 30 to 50 years old with a simple game: they had to choose between two types of lotteries--one had a straight 50-50 percent probability of winning $5 while the other was an all-or-nothing type where one could win $50 or nothing, but with a win percentile ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent. The study revealed that teen participants took part in riskier lotteries than the adults.

"The important lesson we learned here is when adolescents know the risks precisely, they will be less likely to take part in the risk," says lead study author Agnieszka Tymula, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University.

While this study can potentially open doors to new branches of research about teen behavior, it is important to note that this is not the final explanation due to a number of reasons, one of them being that teens and adults may have a different perception on the value of money.

In the meantime, let your adolescent have a little fun--as long as it’s safe and legal. As they say, experience is the best teacher. Letting her encounter new things will teach her which ones she can do, and which ones she won’t do again.


(Photo by chiesADIbeinasco via Flickr Creative Commons)

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