Why do boys engage in more risk taking than girls? The role of attributions, beliefs, and risk appraisals

J Pediatr Psychol. 1998 Feb;23(1):33-43. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/23.1.33.


Objective: Assessed for age and sex differences in school-age children's reporting of injury-risk behaviors, ratings of injury-risk in various play situations, attributions for injuries (self, other, bad luck), and beliefs about their vulnerability to injury in comparison to their peers (more, less, comparable vulnerability).

Methods: We used a structured interview and drawings that depicted children showing wary or confident facial expressions when engaged in injury-risk play activities.

Results: Children's reported risk taking could be predicted from their risk appraisals, beliefs about the likelihood of injury, and attributions of injuries to bad luck, and these factors resulted 80% correct assignment of cases by sex in a discriminant analysis. The wary affect display resulted in higher injury-risk ratings than the confident display, with this effect being greater for girls than boys.

Conclusions: Cognitive-based factors differentiate boys from girls and contribute to sex differences in children's injury-risk behaviors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Perception*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*