Study Suggests American Teens Take More Risks

Teenager sitting on a skateboard outsideA study that compared American teenagers to teens living in Puerto Rico suggests American teens are more likely to take risks.

Published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the study is the first to look at sensation-seeking patterns in teenagers.

Risk-Taking in Puerto Rico and the United States

The study followed almost 3,000 Puerto Rican teens. Half of the group lived in Puerto Rico, and the other half lived in the Bronx. This approach allowed researchers to compare cultural differences that cannot be attributed solely to ethnicity.

Participants were surveyed about their views on various risk-taking behaviors, such as doing things other people find scary. The teens ranked their interest in risk-taking behaviors on a scale of 1-10. Participants experienced a spike in risk-taking behavior between the ages of 10 and 11, with interest increasing until age 17.

More than three quarters of children were ranked as either “normative,” suggesting they followed expected patterns for risk-taking behavior, or “low sensation-seeking.” These participants saw a steady rise in risk-taking behavior as they aged. But for 16% of participants, risk-taking behavior rose more rapidly than the rest of the group. An additional 7% of participants showed a decrease in risk-taking behavior over time.

Risk-taking behavior was consistently higher among children raised in the Bronx. Additionally, when compared to teens raised in Puerto Rico, the Bronx teens reported higher levels of risk-taking behavior at an earlier age. On average, boys showed more interest in risk-taking behavior than girls.

The results, the study’s authors say, show that risk-taking behavior is not just a product of personality or genes. Environment and culture may also play an important role.


  1. Do American teens take more risks? (2015, October 25). Retrieved from
  2. Does living in the United States promote more teenage risk taking? (2015, October 20). Retrieved from
  3. Silvia S. Martins, Melanie M. Wall, Ruth Eisenberg, Carlos Blanco, Julian Santaella, Maria Ramos-Olazagasti, Glorisa Canino, Hector R. Bird, Qiana Brown, Cristiane S. Duarte. Trajectories of Sensation Seeking Among Puerto-Rican Children and Youth. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015; DOI:10.1016/j.jaac.2015.09.009

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  • Khalil


    October 26th, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    Totally different cultures in many aspects, so not sure those comparisons are exactly fair. How about comparing to western Europeans? Might be more similarities between upbringing and therefore a better analysis of what is different between the families to cause those risk taking differences.

  • kennedy


    October 27th, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Look at all of the terrible influences in their lives! No wonder they take more risks because quite honestly there are times when it feels like this is what is celebrated the most, not the ones who are behaving and doing what they should!

  • jean


    October 28th, 2015 at 3:07 PM

    Well I hope that they know that they are throwing away every chance for success that they are being given.

  • Marla


    October 29th, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    None of my kids have ever been that big of risk takers so I am not sure how I would even react if I started seeing them engage in behavior that I knew was dangerous and wrong. I think that the first thing that I would do would be to give them a good stern talking to because they never know how bad something seemingly innocent could so quickly go wrong. I think that there are a lot of adults who see this as just engaging in childish behavior instead of seeing just how dangerous some of that behavior could actually turn out to be.

  • jay


    October 30th, 2015 at 7:37 PM

    We see this all the time- the kids with the most advantages in life can sometimes be the ones most likely to throw them away

  • Delaney


    October 31st, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    It has to be the culture in which the kids are raised.
    maybe there are more parents and grandparent support in Puerto Rico that could be missing in many of these Bronx families.
    I just have to think that it has to be something like that, something that is cultural based that would cause behavior like this.

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