Many adolescents transgress rules and break laws, not out of criminal intent or because they have some disorder, but "for fun", as an adventure, for the experience.
How is this explained from the perspective of psychology and cognitive sciences? Does this behavior serve a developmental purpose, or is it merely a dangerous side effect that is best suppressed and controlled by parents and authorities?
The following functions have been suggested1 for adolescent risk-taking behavior, such as psychoactive substance use, risky driving, or antisocial behavior:
- self-affirmation and experimentation / exploration
- identification and social acceptance
- ritual and emulation
- social visibility and desirability
- escape through action and excitement
But the term "risk" implies that these behaviors are not necessarily functional in the sense that they help the individual develop healthily. Smoking may lead to peer acceptance, but it is certainly not healthy.
Yet, the ubiquity of these behaviors suggests that they must serve some functional purpose. What is it?
1 Bonino, S., Cattelino, E., Ciairano, S., Mc Donald, L., & Jessor, R. (2005). Adolescents and Risk: Behavior, Functions, and Protective Factors. New York: Springer.