Existing research finds adolescent popularity to be correlated with risk-taking. While a subset of this research uses longitudinal methods to examine whether part of this correlation may reflect the influence of popularity on risk-taking, research has paid insufficient attention to examining the reverse relation. Drawing on literature from a range of disciplines, we argue that a portion of the correlation reflects the positive influence of risk-taking on popularity. Using longitudinal data from a northeastern sample of adolescents, we test this argument. Net of statistical controls, we find that risk-taking among males, but not females, is associated with higher popularity, but that this relation is curvilinear, such that progressively higher levels of risk-taking yield diminishing returns in male popularity. Results provide one explanation for why male adolescents tend to take more risks in the presence of peers. Likewise, they suggest that attempts to prevent adolescent risk-taking, particularly among males, may require practitioners to move beyond conceiving of adolescent risk-taking as purely irrational behavior reflecting an ostensible inability to perceive potential consequences. Instead, results suggest that male risk-taking should be understood in the context of the salient social rewards that may make it rational from an adolescent perspective.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science