Objective: This study aimed to assess 1) the relationship between risk-taking behaviors and exposure to terrorism, 2) the relationship between posttraumatic symptoms and risk-taking behaviors, and 3) gender differences in the type and frequency of risk-taking behaviors and their differential associations with posttraumatic symptoms.
Method: The participants were 409 Israeli adolescents 15 to 18 years of age. Exposure to terrorism was assessed with a questionnaire developed specifically for the Israeli security situation. Posttraumatic symptoms were measured with the University of California at Los Angeles Reaction Index. Functional impairment was measured with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children. Risk-taking behavior-and the adolescents' perceptions of such behavior-was assessed with a self-report questionnaire.
Results: Israeli adolescents exposed to continuous threats of terrorist attacks reported high levels of risk-taking behaviors. The severity of risk-taking was associated with greater terrorism exposure. Adolescents suffering from posttraumatic symptoms reported more risk-taking behaviors than nonsymptomatic adolescents. Although there was no gender difference in the degree of exposure to terrorism, boys reported taking more risks than girls. The association between posttraumatic symptoms and risk-taking behaviors was stronger in boys than girls. Functional impairment, gender, avoidance symptoms, level of exposure, and degree of fear predicted the severity of risk-taking behaviors.
Conclusions: Clinicians and educators should be aware of the strong link between posttraumatic distress and risk-taking behaviors. Risk-taking behaviors may be a manifestation of functional impairment and posttraumatic distress, especially for boys exposed to terrorism.