Is There an Evolutionary Basis to Risky Adolescent Behaviour?

A recent article published in Developmental Psychology proposes an evolutionary model of risky behavior in adolescence and contrasts it with the prevailing developmental psychopathology model. The evolutionary model contends that understanding the evolutionary functions of adolescence is critical to explaining why adolescents engage in risky behavior and that successful intervention depends on working with, instead of against, adolescent goals and motivations. The current article articulates 5 key evolutionary insights into risky adolescent behavior: (a) The adolescent transition is an inflection point in development of social status and reproductive trajectories; (b) interventions need to address the adaptive functions of risky and aggressive behaviors like bullying; (c) risky adolescent behavior adaptively calibrates over development to match both harsh and unpredictable environmental conditions; (d) understanding evolved sex differences is critical for understanding the psychology of risky behavior; and (e) mismatches between current and past environments can dysregulate adolescent behavior, as demonstrated by age-segregated social groupings. The evolutionary model has broad implications for designing interventions for high-risk youth and suggests new directions for research that have not been forthcoming from other perspectives. For the abstract.

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