Dignity of Risk in Adolescent Development a neuropsychol ogical perspective

Wendy Heller, Haley Skymba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the notion of “dignity of risk” has primarily been used in reference to adolescents with disabilities, this concept can be applied to all adoles-cents, as parents and guardians are challenged by how to balance adolescents’ need for self-determination with the need for safety and supervision. In the context of maturing cognitive and emotional neural circuits, normative adolescent development involves temporal shifts in social and environmental factors that are inherently associated with both higher risk-taking and opportunities for growth and new learning. The challenge for parents of balancing risk and opportunity is influenced by social, cultural, and environmental factors, previous experience, personality, and the perceived capability of the adolescent. When perceived capability is lower, the challenge becomes even more acute, such as when an adolescent has a developmental, physical, or psychiatric disability that impacts cognitive, emotional, or adaptive functioning. This article re-views the literature on normative brain development from the perspective of balancing risk and self-determination in adolescence and discusses the implications for families and clinicians across a range of ability and disability. Potential approaches to fostering self-determination are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-306
Number of pages12
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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