Targeting adolescent risk-taking behaviors: the contributions of egocentrism and sensation-seeking

J Adolesc. 2000 Aug;23(4):439-61. doi: 10.1006/jado.2000.0330.


Tremendous resources are spent each year developing programs and messages targeting adolescent risk behavior. Adolescents are often reasonably well educated about methods for health promotion such as preventing HIV infection, yet they fail to act accordingly. One widely used individual difference variable, sensation-seeking, has been incorporated in health message design to some extent, but it fails to take development into account. Research on adolescent egocentrism suggests adolescents experience personal fable which can lead to an exaggerated sense of invulnerability. The present study sampled adolescents and college students to examine relative contributions of egocentrism and sensation-seeking to risk-taking behavior. Results indicate a latent factor labeled risk-seeking (primarily indicated by disinhibition and risk-taking personality, and to a lesser degree by invulnerability, experience-seeking, boredom susceptibility, and thrill and adventure-seeking) indeed predicted a latent factor labeled delinquent behavior (primarily indicated by alcohol consumption and delinquency, and to a lesser degree by drug use, drinking and driving, and risky driving). Other results indicate consistently high personal fable combined with high sensation-seeking explained most risk-taking behavior. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires