Adolescent risk taking under stressed and nonstressed conditions: Conservative, calculating, and impulsive types

Sara B. Johnson, Jacinda K. Dariotis, Constance Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Adolescent risk taking may result from heightened susceptibility to environmental cues, particularly emotion and potential rewards. This study evaluated the impact of social stress on adolescent risk taking, accounting for individual differences in risk taking under nonstressed conditions. Methods: Eighty-nine older adolescents completed a computerized risk-taking and decision-making battery at baseline. At follow-up, participants were randomized to a control condition, which repeated this battery, or an experimental condition, which included a social and cognitive stressor before the battery. Baseline risk-taking data were cluster-analyzed to create groups of adolescents with similar risk-taking tendencies. The degree to which these risk-taking tendencies predicted risk taking by stress condition was assessed at follow-up. Results: Participants in the stress condition took more risks than those in the no-stress condition. However, differences in risk taking under stress were related to baseline risk-taking tendencies. We observed three types of risk-takers: conservative, calculated, and impulsive. Impulsives were less accurate and planful under stress; calculated risk takers took fewer risks; and conservatives engaged in low risk taking regardless of stress. Conclusions: As a group, adolescents are more likely to take risks in "hot cognitive" than in "cold cognitive" situations. However, there is significant variability in adolescents' behavioral responses to stress related to trait-level risk-taking tendencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S34-S40
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cluster analysis
  • Decision making
  • Hot cognition
  • Risk taking
  • Stress
  • Stress reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescent risk taking under stressed and nonstressed conditions: Conservative, calculating, and impulsive types'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this