A longitudinal study of the reciprocal nature of risk behaviors and cognitions in adolescents: what you do shapes what you think, and vice versa

Health Psychol. 1996 Sep;15(5):344-54. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.15.5.344.


Adolescents' reckless driving, drinking, and smoking, along with their cognitions about these behaviors, were assessed in a 3-year longitudinal design. Consistent with most models of health behavior, the results indicated that health cognitions predict risk behavior. In addition, the current data demonstrate that increases in risk behavior are accompanied by increase in perceptions of vulnerability and prevalence and by decreases in the influence of concerns about health and safety. Furthermore, the changes in prevalence estimates and concern about health and safety predicted subsequent risk behavior. These results demonstrate reciprocity between risk behaviors and related cognitions and suggest that adolescents are aware of the risks associated with their behavior but modify their thinking about these risks in ways that facilitate continued participation in the behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Thinking*
  • United States / epidemiology