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The Impact of Adolescent Reckless Behavior on Society

May 28, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 28, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Chapter 1: Introduction

(Scope of Reckless Behaviour)

Most teenagers in their adolescent stage often push the boundaries of tolerable behaviour. Some engage in extremely reckless behaviour such as drug abuse and dangerous driving. Shader (2004) writes that adolescence bears a heightened reckless potential in comparison to other periods of development and the tenacity of the potential varies with culture and time. There have been several studies on the various forms of reckless behavior, the efforts to determine the underlying factors across the range of reckless behaviour variation, but not among regional and Indigenous Australian youths, thus underscoring the need for cultural competency in support services.

(Aboriginal adolescents and risk)

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (referred to hereafter as ‘Indigenous’)may have increased feelings of anxiety, shame, and distrust because Indigenous people have faced many racist practices from non-Indigenous people in authority such as teachers, welfare workers, government departments, the health system, the justice system and the police (Doolan, Najman, Mills, Cherney, &Strathearn, 2012, p. 303). Adolescent rites of passage and social groups assist in developing a sense of self and personal identity.Identity and role confusion are common conflicts for Indigenous youth because early in the European occupancy of Australia the government implemented policies of segregation that resulted in decades of lost kinships and displaced communities (Pearson, 2011, p.75).

Statistics show that Indigenous youth are detained at high rates and have a larger risk of progressing into adult corrections (Doolan et al., p. 303). This specific group of young people are recognized as a high-risk group for emotional and psychological problems, with a greater likelihood of needing access to relevant support services (Price &Dalgleish, 2013, p. 10).

Significance of the study

(The aim of the study is to increase the possible effectiveness of intervention approaches)

Today’s dynamic society lacks guidance necessary for adolescents to pursue their goals. It is therefore important to analyze the risks associated with adolescent reckless behaviors as regard goal attainment. The study aims to increase the possible effectiveness of intervention development, by determining which risks are being taken and by whom, which would deter reckless behavior participation and promote beneficial development.

The interventions necessary for modern adolescents may include a combination of traditional disciplinary interventions and multidimensional adolescent development issues, (Alsobrook and Ross 1998). This may possibly bridge the gap between research, theory and actual practice through a detailed evaluation and analysis of current empirical trends of adolescent reckless behaviors and by incorporating the intervention approaches.

Literature Review

This section illustrates the variations of reckless behaviors in adolescents through past research that examines the factors influencing multiple types of reckless behavior and provides specific development variation.

(Definition of reckless behavior)

Reckless behavior covers not just general dangerous behavior but also includes an attitude where the adolescent is generally unconcerned about the consequences of their behavior.  Adolescents are generally considered wild, negligent and lacking caution. This basic characteristic defines the scope of reckless behavior in this research. Recklessness is rash behavior where individuals are prone to act without any consideration of the consequences of their actions. Decisions are made in a rash manner without considering the pros and cons; and acted upon immediately. Often reckless behavior has no positive outcome but generally results in negative consequences. Despite this, adolescents will continually engage in the same behavior despite worse consequences and results each time.

. Recklessness may be defined as seeking thrill activities that may result in adrenaline rush. Rafting and parachute jumping are recreational activities accepted by society but still present potential extreme consequences, such as injury and death.  The danger present in these circumstances is recognized, but minimized deliberately. The difference between participating in extreme sports and reckless activities, such as illicit drug use and criminal acts, is that the foreseeable risks are usually not taken into consideration (Steinberg, 2007).

(Types of reckless behaviour)

Previous studies have employed various terms in an attempt to describe potentially dangerous activities, including criminal, problematic, risky, and delinquent (Teese&Bradley, 2008). The ideal descriptive term is ‘reckless behaviour’ since it bears stronger connotations of potentially negative consequences.  Thus, numerous conclusions have asserted that reckless behaviour ranges from minor criminal activities, drug abuse, irresponsible sexual behaviour and development of SUD at a particular stage in life. Moreover, conditions resulting from use of alcohol consumption. These particular reckless behaviors lead to serious personal injuries, legal system arrest and conviction, unwanted pregnancies and death in extreme circumstances.  Additional risks common among older adolescent groups include gambling and economic calculations where the risk is based on loss or gain of monetary benefits (i.e. sports tipping, unsecured monetary loans, credit cards, etc.).

(Causes of Reckless behaviors)

The initiation of reckless behavior varies across questioned behavior. For example, on average, delinquent behavior involvement increases in the early stages of adolescent, peaks at 17 and rapid decline is observed thereafter (Lipsey&Derzon, 1998).  Substance abuse sharply elevates through adolescence and arrive peak level amid 18 and 24. For example, in the United States, first sexual intercourse is averagely estimated at 16 years for females and 17 years for males (Gullone, Moore, Moss, & Boyd, 2000).

Theoretical Approaches

Scholars have presented well-articulated theories to explain reckless behaviour among the adolescent groups models including Erik’s social development,   Dalgeish adult status and Jessor’s problem behavior theory incorporate numerous factors and are based on the developmental theory that states that adolescent behavior is the result of the person and their environment, (Erikson, 1968; Jessor, 1994; Price &Dalgleish,2013).. For example, some behaviors, such as sexual activities and alcohol consumption, are socially legal for adults, but are considered unhealthy and illegal for adolescents, (Jessor 2008).

(Adolescents engage in reckless behaviour to acquire adult status)

Price and Dalgleish’s (2013) theory was tested using a longitudinal study of college and high school students on numerous social, environmental and personality variables in association with five types of irresponsible behaviour. These were sexual activity, problem drinking, use of marijuana, drug use and general deviance such as stealing and vandalism. According to the study, these activities were considered a syndrome rather than having occurred in isolation.

(Participating in Adult Activities)

Parental ideology and control were also incorporated into the model to recognize broad and narrow socialization ideas (Price &Dalgleish, 2013). The model, in contrast to the developmental theory, argues that problem initiation of adolescence reckless behaviour plays a developmental role on the desire to be an adult. It makes sense when adolescents engage in alcohol consumption and sexual activity when they are approved for adults but proscribed for adolescents, (Kaspar 2013). Thus, the desire to indulge in such activities signifies the adolescent’s wishing to emulate adulthood. However, there are also reckless behaviors that are socially unacceptable for adults, such as stealing, lying and Vandalism.

For proponents of this theory understanding behavior begins with understanding the environment within which the behavior has been developed. Relations and parents are credited for formulating values, beliefs and structure for the adolescent, (Lau and Yuen 2013). This becomes a complete reflection on social learning and development.  Some behaviors in the value system are prescribed as adult. Initial interaction with such behaviors such as alcohol drinking and sexual intercourse become the premise upon which the adolescents base maturity. In their desire to be seen as adults, among peers, friends and family adolescents are more likely to engage in this behavior. Having sex, drinking and smoking, is seen as symptoms of being an adult and therefore admired greatly. Peers often view adolescents who are not engaged in such behavior as childish and immature, (Marmot 2004). For this reason, it becomes more popular and attractive.

(Sigmund Freud’s assertion that reckless behaviour is triggered by biological instincts)

Shader, (2004) observes that the psychological theories pioneered by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) recognize childhood as the most formative period in human development. Sigmund believed that personality dynamics strongly depend on the superego, sexual instinct identification and the ego. Central to the theory, is the idea that human beings possess powerful drives that must be satisfied. Freud believed that human beings are biological creatures with the drive to serve and satisfy their motives (Tyson & Tyson, 1984).

(Controlling Undesirable Behaviour)

Contrastingly, the society dictates that most of these drives are undesirable and must be controlled. Also, Freud asserts that individuals are unaware that the biological instincts are the driving forces behind behaviors (Tyson & Tyson, 1984). In a developmental analysis, Anna Freud (1895-1982) added that adolescence signifies an important life period of turbulence due to the prevailing sexual conflicts from puberty (Sandler, 1980). However, critics argue that this theory focuses too much on sexuality and oblivion which are part of the causes of reckless behaviour.

(Mental health & reckless behavior)

According to Shader (2004) it is difficult to determine the exact number of adolescents affected by mental or emotional health disabilities. However, research evidence (Arnett, 2007) provides that Indigenous groups, especially young people, are likely to suffer of exclusion, discrimination and stigmatization. Furthermore, the society singles out Indigenous adolescents as passive victims and as a result, this population suffers shame and guilt and may become less stable within society.  Studies on health behaviour models suggest that stigmatization and discriminations trigger decisions to engage in reckless behavior among Indigenous adolescents, (Merrick and Omar 2007, Darlon 2007, Bassani 2012).  Consistent with other behaviour models (Pearson, 2001); poor emotional health and stress may lead to reckless behaviors.

(Addressing the variations of reckless behaviour among adolescents)

The widespread reckless behavior among adolescent groups is troubling because these behaviors can have long-term consequences on development, including underemployment, long-term substance abuse, school dropout’s unplanned parenthood and sexually transmitted infections (Lipsey&Derzon, 1998). A large number of youths in the adolescent stage are negatively affected by reckless behavior with elevated variations such as life expectancy, successful transition to adulthood, physical health and psychological adjustment.

(First order factor cannot account for varying reckless behaviour)

Essentially, reckless behaviour is less prevalent in late childhood and increases towards adolescence (Bradley &Wildman, 2002). A longitudinal study of the adolescence in different societies, Kauffman, Bradbury and Owings, (1992) examined the deviant behaviour and structural nature of marijuana use, alcohol consumption, trouble at school and the use of illicit drugs among children of 11 – 12 ages. The research provided affected by mental or physical health disability. However, research evidence that numerous delinquency, school troubles and substance abuseuse could not be accounted for using the first order factor. Substance abuse mostly stemmed from several factors and contributed towards school troubles. On the other hand, not all school troubles could be attributed to substance abuse.

(Reckless behavior equally contributed to irresponsible behaviour in both early and late adolescence)

According to the results from the longitudinal study on the covariance from early adolescence to adulthood; academic struggles, drug use and social nonconformity were noted among early adolescents (Kauffman et al., 1992). On the other hand, sexual involvement, drug use, social non-conformity, academic orientation and criminal activities were noted among late adolescent. Thus the most commonly defined factor in adolescence is social non-conformity. However, early adulthood and late adolescence, sexual involvement and drug use were the strongly related reckless behaviour factors, (Patterson 1999). Finally, drug use was the strongly related factor of reckless behaviour in adulthood, then social non-conformity, criminal behaviour and number of sexual partners.

(Reckless behaviors in adolescence later externalize into adult behavior/Cascade Model)

The probable reason for the variation in reckless behaviour in adolescents may be due to reckless behaviour sequencing and pattern of development. According to the cascade model of development (Dodge, Malone, Lansford, Miller, Petit, & Bates, 2009), reckless behaviors in one domain are likely to cascade into other types of problems in a bidirectional association.The model illustrates this by explaining that reckless behaviors in adolescence predict future academic problems, that may later externalize in adult behavior (Dodge et al., 2009; Doolan et al., 2012). In conclusion, reckless behavior highly contributes to academic problems in the present and later life of an adolescent.

(Jessor’s Theory)

Jessor’s (1994) theory of reckless behaviour, explains that the primary cause of external problems in the adolescent stage is non-conformity, which takes place in the personality of youths and social environment in the adolescent stage. Jessor perceived environment, personality, social environment, genetics/biology as the five domains necessary in explaining adolescent reckless behaviour. This theory posits that non-conformed individuals are particularly tolerant to deviance and less associated to religious and educational institutions. A teenager who spends time in anon-conformist social environment might perceive a greater chance of participating in dangerous behaviors without consideration of possible consequences (Lipsey&Derzon, 1998). Jessor’s theory contradicts Erikson’s (1968) belief that adolescents are constantly seeking peer approval and a sense of belonging. A study by Grenell (2007) tested Jessor’s theory and found it to be wanting. Whereas, adolescents reckless behavior can be attributed to the environment; peer pressure played a greater role in the initial encounter with reckless behaviors such as alcohol and sexual activity. Over 89% of the participants indicated that they were introduced to alcohol, sex and even vandalism by friends. They continued to participate in such behavior in an attempt to fit in with their own friends.

Common vs. Specific Risk Factors

This section examines key reckless behaviour contributors during adolescence across family, peer groups, community and school.

Domains of Risk

Peer Risk

(Individuals with inability to control impulses are more likely to engage in reckless behaviour)

The inability to control impulses due to immaturity is one of the factors that explain risk taking in adolescent groups. According to Fletcher, (2011) the association underlying antisocial behaviour, substance dependence and conduct disorder is genetically mediated along the externalizing spectrum. They studied adolescents in a longitudinal survey to prove this assumption. Though engaged in reckless behavior as they matured, decisions and behavior of the past was soon forgotten. In fact majority of the participants showed regret at poor decisions.  Additionally, vulnerability of traits to lack of restraint manifests as poor control of impulse. The framework posits that individuals with inadequate ability to control their impulses are highly expected to engage in reckless behaviour.

(The importance of Peer Groups)

Pearl, (1972) explains that, a peer group is a common salient social context in adolescence. The significance of adolescence peer groups is that it enhances multiple processes, including duration individuals spend with peers. Further Ebustani et al (2011) state that , Adolescents whose friends are engaged in deviant behavior such as income taxes and personal revenues. However, as much as the healthcare system in Canada is social and universal, the plan does not cater for drugs are soon likely to engage in the same behavior even though their values and believes do not agree with such behavior. However, Ferguson and Eyre (2000) Indigenous adolescents often suffer from shame and guilt, thus are less likely to participate in peer risks. Adolescents who are overprotected by their breast cancer. Ann has been a staunch Christian since childhood just like the rest of her family peers are likely to follow the course of the family members.

Familial Risk

(poverty on America’s families:Assessing our research knowledge”. Journal of Family history strongly predicts subsequent reckless behaviour during adolescence)

The characteristics of a family may influence reckless adolescent behaviour. Scholars argue that if an individual is raised in a reckless-behaving family, he will grow up into the same as a response to adapt to a hostile environment (Ellis, Shirtcliff, Boyce, Deardorff&Essex, 2011). Inadequate parental and low maternal involvement expectations are associated with the use of drugs, sexual debut and delinquency, (Bakermans-Kranenburg and Van Ijzendoorn 2006)

Essentially, adolescents with lenient parents exhibit elevated levels of reckless behavior, (Talan 2008). Moreover, youths whose parents condone violent behaviour, drug use, and smoking are most likely to follow suit, (Gilbert and Allan 1998). In essence, family history strongly predicts subsequent reckless behaviour during adolescence and some of the risks may be genetically instigated.

School Risk

(Less association with educational institutions contributes to reckless behaviour)

Youths spend considerable time in school surroundings and their performance and perception of school has significant implications for reckless behaviour. Edmonds (1979) states that poor performance in school predicts drug use, early sexual activity and delinquent behavior, (Herrenkohl et al 2000). Youths with problems of conduct are likely to perform poorly at school which may lead to reckless behavior. In a study examining transition, behavior and performance of high school populations are the students and the staff of Miami Dade School. Emphasis will be placed on the students, Shapiro and Kratochwill (2000), found that reckless behavior often preceded a decline in performance. As performance became worse, students were prone to engage in more reckless behavior. This covers the relationship between behavior and performance.

Contrastingly, attachment and success in school are related to reducing involvement in reckless behaviour, providing strong bonds with school may protect against various behavioral characteristics, (DeAngelis 2012). Indigenous adolescents suffer from guilt and shame and are more likely to drop out of school. As elaborated by Edmonds, (1979) less association with educational institutions contributes to reckless behaviour such as drug use and irresponsible sexual behaviour.

Community Risk

(Community disorganization exposes adolescents to reckless behaviors)

The low socio-economic and disorganization of neighborhoods in the community influences various types of reckless behaviour. Low socioeconomic indicators such as poor housing, poverty and overcrowding are related to drug use, delinquency and risky sexual behavior, (Beresford and Omaji 2006). However, no research has shown a link between socioeconomic status and reckless behaviour. Subsequently, disorganized neighborhoods associated with dense population, physical deterioration and residential mobility expose adolescent groups to high risks of illegal drug trafficking and high crime rates (Matthews, 2000).

Caspi et al (2002), further explains that models of health behaviour assert that psychological problems expose Indigenous adolescents to violence, sexual activities and drug use. According to Christofides (2012), this is due to discrimination and stigmatization in the society which influences their perceptions and vulnerability. Thus, they are likely to engage in problem behaviour as predicted by their health cognition.

Relation among Developmental Variation, Risk Domain and Cumulative Risk

(Risk factors affect development variations in reckless behaviour)

Birleson (1980) states that Family environment and genetics seek to provide explanations of reckless behavior unquestionably and generalize the multiple pathways and complexity of adolescent behaviour. Risk factors affect behaviour problem in multiple ways. For instance, positive perceptions on sexual activities may precede and affect sexual debut directly.

Likewise, deviant peers association have a direct impact on one’s behaviour as risk factors indirectly impact reckless behaviour. For example, disorganization of the community provides transition difficulties of pro-social values from families to offspring (Fagan, 2004). Thus, residing in disorganized neighborhoods results in poor family management which is a precursor for reckless adolescent behaviour.

(Ensure research collaborations focus on various domains of reckless behaviour)

The greatest potential health complications of adolescent results from behaviors they willingly engage in such as delinquency, reckless driving, risky sexual behaviour and substance use. The literature discussed provides human society develops. The evidence on how these reckless behaviors develop during adolescence. Reckless behavior does not just stem from one factor; strong evidence suggests that it is in fact a multi-faceted problem stemming from various issues. Though not all, risk factors such as disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which Indigenous youth may face, might result in reckless behaviors.

Unfortunately, practice and research has treated adolescent reckless behaviors as independent, with minimal consideration of their interconnections. Perhaps, the absolute danger is that problem behavior research is classified into several domains. Thus, these classifications do not provide in depth details on the interrelationship between these risk factors and reckless behavior. In conclusion, there is urgent need to ensure research collaborations focus on various domains of reckless behaviour and promote positive adolescent development.


(Questionnaires, dispersion, central tendency and correlation analysis were used)

The collection of the data was based on the information from questionnaires used in sampling of culturally diverse youths from an independent secondary school.

The data gathered provided critical evidence in understanding reckless adolescent behavior. While majority of the scholars have relied on peer education to explain and indeed make conclusions on adolescent behavior, it is now apparent that the issue is multifaceted. Biology, genes and emotional development of the adolescent play a major role in making the individual susceptible to reckless behavior. Surprisingly, despite the continued negative effect of the behavior; adolescents will continue on this destructive path without proper interventions and structured prevention mechanisms. .


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