Adolescent Risk Taking

adapted from
The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do
by Lynn E. Ponton, M.D.
(Basic Books, 1997)

Healthy risk-taking is a positive tool in an adolescent's life for discovering, developing, and consolidating his or her identity. Adolescent risk-taking only becomes negative when the risks are dangerous. Healthy risks -- often understood as "challenges" -- can turn unhealthy risks in a more positive direction, or prevent them from ever taking place to begin with.

It is important to remember that learning how to assess risks is a process that we work on throughout our lives. Adolescents need both support and tools to be able to do this. Below are some suggestions for healthy alternatives to unhealthy risk-taking. In order to undertake healthy alternatives to dangerous risk-taking, adolescents need the active help and support of the adults in their lives, including parents and teachers. Any of the healthy risks in the right-hand column are excellent alternatives to any of the behaviors shown on the left.


  • Dangerous dieting, eating disorders,
  • Using drugs or alcohol,
  • Running away, staying out all night, living on the streets,
  • Unprotected sexual activity                                                                                                      
  • Gang violence, weapons, bullying, scapegoating
  • Shoplifting, stealing


  • Physical activities such as sports teams, horseback riding, in-line skating, walking, or jogging 
  • Under the supervision of a trained expert, engaging in outlets for extreme physical and emotional thrills such as white-water rafting, rock climbing, camping, etc.; creative activity such as joining a band or the production of a play.
  • Learning or practicing a creative art form such as photography,pottery, video, dance, or creative writing
  • Learning to talk about sex and relationships, working on open communication with partners and parents
  • Seeking out new friends, volunteering in the community, participating in a student exchange program, transferring to a new school if necessary
  • Getting a part-time job such as baby-sitting, camp or after-school counselor, retail clerk in clothing or music store, tutoring

* This article was copied from Michael Carr-Gregg's website  

In Scouting and particularly in the Venturer section we provide an engaging, productive and safe environment for young adults where they can take responsible risks with their peers under the guidance of trained adults. 

The Venturer Unit provides another friendship group for young adults where they can do activities, learn self management, contribute to the community and take a break from school activiites.  The activities contribute to a greater sense of self worth and confidence and some of the activities provide them with a VET Certificate 2.