Late adolescent risk-taking: effects of perceived benefits and perceived risks on behavioral intentions and behavioral change

J Adolesc. 1997 Aug;20(4):381-92. doi: 10.1006/jado.1997.0094.

Abstract

To assess the predictive utility of perceived benefits and risks of risk-taking behaviors (RTBs) on behavioral intentions and behavioral change, data were collected from 187 male and female late adolescent college students (ages 17-20). Perceived benefits, perceived risks, behavioral intentions, and involvement for 18 RTBs were assessed at T1 and T2 (3 months later). Factor analyses were performed on T1 involvement data, and six RTB factors emerged: Alcohol RTBs, Illegal Drug RTBs, Stereotypic Male RTBs, Social RTBs, Sex RTBs, and Imprudent RTBs. Regression analyses indicated that perceived benefits accounted for significant variance in behavioral intentions for each of the six factors and Overall RTB; perceived risks accounted for significant variance in behavioral intentions for five of the factors. Similar regression analyses indicated that perceived benefits accounted for significant variance in behavior change (over a 3 month period) for each of the six factors and the Overall RTB score, whereas perceived risks accounted for significant variance for only one factor (Illegal Drug RTBs). The result suggest that, among late adolescents, perceived benefits are better determinants of behavior change for RTBs than are perceived risks. Both perceived benefits and perceived risks, however, are important determinants of behavioral intentions. These findings support previous work identifying adolescents as "sensation seekers". Interventions should address perceived benefits of RTB, rather than relying solely on promoting knowledge of the risks. Assessment of adolescent RTB should continue to use multi-item measures to obtain a broad picture of the variety of behaviors commonly endorsed by adolescents.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Development
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Conformity
  • Students / psychology