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Journal ArticleDOI

Psychobiological models of adolescent risk: Implications for prevention and intervention

01 Apr 2010-Developmental Psychobiology (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)-Vol. 52, Iss: 3, pp 295-297

TL;DR: This work suggests ways in which prevention programming can be designed to be sensitive to both individual differences and developmental timing in order to result in a more sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms of change related to risky behavior.
Abstract: Psychobiological models of risk have much to contribute to the prevention of and intervention with risky behavior among adolescents. Emerging research is beginning to provide better information about mechanisms underlying individual differences in risky behavior (e.g., differences in self-regulation) and providing insight into unique vulnerabilities that occur during adolescence (e.g., increases in reward seeking). This work suggests ways in which prevention programming can be designed to be sensitive to both individual differences and developmental timing. Psychobiological models of risk also have practical implications for the manner and methods of conducting prevention and intervention work. Future work in both the etiology and prevention of risky behavior can benefit from ongoing dialogue and has the potential to result in a more sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms of change related to risky behavior.
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Psychobiological Models of Adolescent Risk: Implications for Prevention and Intervention
By: Julia Jackson-Newsom and Terri L. Shelton
Newsom, J., & Shelton, T.L. (2010). Psychobiological models of adolescent risk: Implications
for prevention and intervention. Developmental Psychobiology, 52(3), 295-297.
***Note: This version of the document is not the copy of record. Made available courtesy of
Wiley-Blackwell. Link to Article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dev.20458/pdf
Abstract:
Psychobiological models of risk have much to contribute to the prevention of and intervention
with risky behavior among adolescents. Emerging research is beginning to provide better
information about mechanisms underlying individual differences in risky behavior (e.g.,
differences in self-regulation) and providing insight into unique vulnerabilities that occur during
adolescence (e.g., increases in reward seeking). This work suggests ways in which prevention
programming can be designed to be sensitive to both individual differences and developmental
timing. Psychobiological models of risk also have practical implications for the manner and
methods of conducting prevention and intervention work. Future work in both the etiology and
prevention of risky behavior can benefit from ongoing dialogue and has the potential to result in
a more sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms of change related to risky behavior.
Article:
Adolescence has long been understood to be a period of transition during which multiple areas of
growth and change are intertwined, leading to increased vulnerability for risk. This risk is
manifested through a variety of internalizing and externalizing behaviors that jeopardize
adolescents’ well-being, and as a result there is an extensive literature on prevention and
intervention of risky behaviors during adolescence. Existing prevention programming is
characterized by multiple approaches, reflecting variety in the scope (e.g., universal vs
indicated), populations (e.g., adolescents and/or parents), level of analysis (e.g., individual,
family, school, community), and mediating mechanisms (e.g., normative beliefs, life skills,
parenting skills) that are targeted. Several bodies of literature have guided prevention and
intervention work related to risky behavior, and evaluation research has yielded evidence that has
led to the creation of multiple lists of ‘promising’ or ‘model’ programs that reduce risk for a
variety of behaviors (e.g., The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model
Programs Guide; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Registry of
Evidence-Based Programs and Practices).
The studies presented in this special issue represent important recent advances in research on the
psychobiological phenomena that underlie many of the growth processes that occur during
adolescence, and hence they hold promise for furthering both the understanding and prevention
of adolescent risky behavior. Despite the fact that there are prevention approaches for which
there is robust evidence of effectiveness, the mechanisms of change underlying these approaches
are not well understood. Research based on a psychobiological model of risky behavior, such as

the papers presented here, may lead to better understanding of the complexity of the normative
processes that occur during this time and, in turn, the key points of vulnerability that occur
during adolescence. As suggested by Steinberg, incorporating a biobehavioral perspective into
the prevention and intervention of risky behavior is a needed next step in this area. The papers in
this issue raise multiple examples of the implications for prevention that arise from
psychobiological studies models of adolescent risk.
An oft asked question is why some adolescents avoid engaging in risky behavior, while others
engage in risky behavior but experience no long term consequences, and still others move
through their adolescent years in a tangled web of troublesome behaviors and negative outcomes.
Research examining individual differences in risky behavior is not new, but several of the
articles in this issue highlight the ways in which psychobiological research can provide a more
nuanced understanding of how individual differences arise, with resulting implications for more
effective tailoring of prevention efforts. For instance, Casey and Romeo’s work on animal
models suggests that future studies should address the link between individual differences in
emotional and stress reactivity and risky behavior. Romer’s paper discusses the links between
individual differences in impulsivity and risky behavior, suggesting that adolescents who exhibit
higher levels of impulsivity may benefit from prevention efforts that seek to mitigate the risk
associated with impulsive behaviors. Graber, Nichols and Brooks-Gunn suggest that the impact
of pubertal status on risky behavior may vary by individual differences in pubertal timing, and
both Graber and Steinberg discuss possible gender differences in this relationship.
Individual differences can emanate from both genetic and environmental factors and the
interaction between the two, and examples of each in relation to risky behavior are presented in
this issue. For example, Casey et al. explore the possible link between genetically-related
differences in emotion regulation and individual differences in risky behavior. In addition, the
role of environmental factors in adolescent risky behavior is highlighted in multiple papers in
this issue. Whether adolescents impulsivity and sensation seeking place them at greater risk
because of underdeveloped cognitive functioning (Casey, Steinberg) or lack of experience and
wisdom (Romer), this work suggests that creating safer and more closely monitored
environments for adolescents can reduce negative outcomes. Romer and Spear and Varlinskaya
further suggest that contexts that provide adolescents opportunities for ‘‘safer’’ risk-taking may
be beneficial during this developmental period. Turrisi and Ray, in their description of a
parenting intervention to prevent harmful drinking among college students, provide an example
of how this approach can be effective outside of directly intervening to reshape the physical
environment. Finally, an illustration of the implications of the interaction between genetics and
environment for risky behavior is found in Dodge’s work, which describes a prevention program
tailored for children who exhibit both genetic and environmental risk for the development of
conduct disorder.
Much of the prevention literature is informed by a developmental framework, but as illustrated in
this special issue, a biobehavioral perspective of risky behavior highlights crucial developmental
considerations in the design, implementation, and evaluation of risky behavior prevention and
intervention programs. The association between the period of adolescence and problematic
alcohol use is widely documented and often attributed to social factors or to adolescents’ needs
for individuation. Spear and Varlinskaya’s paper suggests, however, that this increased risk for

problem drinking is partly due to a developmentally-based increased sensitivity to alcohol that
results from a confluence of developmental processes among multiple brain-based systems. The
uniqueness of this sensitivity to this developmental period has important implications for
decisions about public policies that directly impact prevention efforts (e.g., setting the legal age
for alcohol consumption). Similarly, psychobiological research on another marker of adolescence
— pubertymay have important implications for the prevention of risky behavior. Graber,
Nichols, and Brooks-Gunn suggest that pubertal timing may be a salient issue to consider in the
context of prevention, especially for girls who undergo this transition earlier than the norm.
Though puberty is a normative developmental experience, the timing of this experience relative
to the norm can put adolescents at risk. Steinberg also discusses the role of puberty and suggests
that future studies should seek to better understand the links between pubertal development and
the development of brain-based systems related to cognition and self-regulation; these studies
could have important implications for the timing of prevention and intervention efforts, and also
provide more information about the mechanisms that link pubertal timing to increased risk.
Dodge and McCourt highlight another way in which developmental timing has implications for
prevention. A key principle in the field of prevention is that early interventionacting to change
or shape behaviors, attitudes, or environments — is most effective in terms of outcomes and
resources. That is, timing plays a central role in the development of prevention programs, not just
in terms of deciding when to begin an intervention, but also in determining the precise
mechanisms of change that are targeted in prevention work. Their work illustrates the cascading
risk that can occur as a result of the interplay of individual and contextual characteristics moving
together over time, and also suggests that these processes are malleable for at least some
individuals.
One tenet of parenting often recommended to parents of young children is to reserve the use of
‘No’ for relatively few situations, and instead to find other ways to redirect children’s negative
behaviors. The premise behind this advice is that young children, in their search for
independence and journey to establish self-regulation, need to feel they have freedom of choice
to choose between appealing options. Several papers in this issue suggest that the salience of
reward seeking remains equally important during adolescence, given that adolescents are
developmentally predisposed to seek novel, rewarding, and exciting situations (Casey et al.;
Romer, Spears & Varlinskaya). These findings add more weight to what we already know from
research: ‘Just saying no’ is not likely to be effective if adolescents are primed to ‘just say yes’.
This research does not imply, however, that prevention efforts are destined to be ineffective. In
addition to providing safer opportunities for ‘risky’ behavior, Romer suggests that
psychobiological research can contribute to prevention by providing better understanding of the
characteristics of behaviors and contexts that adolescents are likely to perceive as rewarding.
Providing adolescents with greater availability of rewarding opportunities could satiate their
drive for reward seeking in less risky, and even developmentally beneficial, ways.
The research presented in this issue not only raises substantive and conceptual implications for
prevention and intervention work, but also raises several practical points about the way in which
prevention and intervention research is conducted. For example, psychobiological models of risk
imply some specific ways in which interdisciplinary work could inform prevention and
intervention. Similar to the profile of papers presented in this issue, collaborative relationships
need to be established so that those in the prevention field can dialogue with researchers studying

brain-based mechanisms. These teams can work together to ensure state-of-the-art prevention
programs that are continually informed by advances in psychobiological work. One challenge for
these teams will be to disseminate new information to parents, teachers, and adolescents in ways
that are meaningful and motivating to these key stakeholders. The dialogue between
psychobiological and prevention researchers can also work in the other direction; that is, the
‘applied’ research can inform the ‘basic’ research. It is often said that the best test of a theory is
to test an intervention based on that theory, and successes and failures in prevention and
intervention can inform questions about new directions for research informing psychobiological
models of risk. Romer presents an example of this in his discussion of the manner in which
cognitive training programs can inform psychobiological models about whether increased risk is
due to underdeveloped cognitive processes or lack of experience.
As research into psychobiological models of risk advances, implications for the prevention and
intervention of risky behavior will continue to be informed by a more sophisticated
understanding of the underlying processes pertinent to risky behavior and identification of
malleable mechanisms of change. This work raises important issues for the development and
testing of prevention and intervention programs, which have tended to address adolescents as a
universal common group (i.e. universal prevention) and not provide clear mechanisms for
adaptation of timing or programmatic elements in response to individual differences. The papers
presented here also speak to the need for prevention to be embedded within the larger
developmental context. Psychobiological models of risk will likely challenge the prevention field
to continue to develop developmentally-appropriate, effective methods of identifying at-risk
adolescents and of tailoring programs to address differences in risk factors emanating both from
within and outside the individual.
REFERENCES
U.S. Department of Justice. (2010). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Model Programs Guide. Retrieved from http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/programs/mpg.html
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). National Registry of
Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. Retrieved from
http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/index.asp
Citations
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21 Apr 2016-PLOS ONE
TL;DR: Investigation of the influence of personality characteristics and gender on adolescents’ perception of risk and their risk-taking behaviour identified a model in which age, behavioural inhibition and impulsiveness directly influenced risk perception, while age, social anxiety, impulsiveness, sensitivity to reward, behavioural inhibited and risk perception itself were directly or indirectly associated with risk- taking behaviour.
Abstract: This study investigated the influence of personality characteristics and gender on adolescents' perception of risk and their risk-taking behaviour. Male and female participants (157 females: 116 males, aged 13-20) completed self-report measures on risk perception, risk-taking and personality. Male participants perceived behaviours as less risky, reportedly took more risks, were less sensitive to negative outcomes and less socially anxious than female participants. Path analysis identified a model in which age, behavioural inhibition and impulsiveness directly influenced risk perception, while age, social anxiety, impulsiveness, sensitivity to reward, behavioural inhibition and risk perception itself were directly or indirectly associated with risk-taking behaviour. Age and behavioural inhibition had direct relationships with social anxiety, and reward sensitivity was associated with impulsiveness. The model was representative for the whole sample and male and female groups separately. The observed relationship between age and social anxiety and the influence this may have on risk-taking behaviour could be key for reducing adolescent risk-taking behaviour. Even though adolescents may understand the riskiness of their behaviour and estimate their vulnerability to risk at a similar level to adults, factors such as anxiety regarding social situations, sensitivity to reward and impulsiveness may exert their influence and make these individuals prone to taking risks. If these associations are proven causal, these factors are, and will continue to be, important targets in prevention and intervention efforts.

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Dawn M. Holman1, Meg Watson1Institutions (1)
TL;DR: Findings indicate that multiple factors influence tanning among adolescents and inform future public health research and intervention efforts to reduce intentional tanning.
Abstract: Purpose Exposure to ultraviolet radiation and a history of sunburn in childhood contribute to risk of skin cancer in adolescence and in adulthood, but many adolescents continue to seek a tan, either from the sun or from tanning beds (i.e., intentional tanning). To understand tanning behavior among adolescents, we conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify correlates of intentional tanning in the United States.

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Gery P. Guy1, Zahava Berkowitz1, Eric Tai1, Dawn M. Holman1  +2 moreInstitutions (1)
01 May 2014-JAMA Dermatology
TL;DR: The clustering of risky behaviors suggests a need for coordinated, multifaceted approaches, including primary care physician counseling, to address such behaviors among adolescents.
Abstract: Importance Indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, and is particularly dangerous for younger and more frequent indoor tanners. Objective To examine the prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning (≥10 times during the 12 months before each survey) and their association with health-related behaviors. Design, Setting, and Participants A cross-sectional study examined data from the 2009 and 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which used nationally representative samples of US high school students representing approximately 15.5 million students each survey year. The study included 25 861 students who answered the indoor tanning question. Main Outcomes and Measures The prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning were examined as well as their association with demographic characteristics and health-related behaviors using multivariable logistic regression modeling. Results The prevalence of indoor tanning was greater among female, older, and non-Hispanic white students. Indoor tanning was highest among female students aged 18 years or older, with 31.5% engaging in indoor tanning in 2011, and among non-Hispanic white female students, with 29.3% engaging in indoor tanning in 2011. Among female students, the adjusted prevalence of indoor tanning decreased from 26.4% in 2009 to 20.7% in 2011. Among female and male students, indoor tanning was associated with other risk-taking behaviors, such as binge drinking ( P P = .006, respectively), unhealthy weight control practices ( P P P P = .03); use among male students was associated with taking steroids without a physician’s prescription ( P P = .03), and attempting suicide ( P = .006). More than half of respondents engaging in indoor tanning reported frequent use of the devices. Conclusions and Relevance Indoor tanning is common among high school students. Public health efforts are needed to change social norms regarding tanned skin and to increase awareness, knowledge, and behaviors related to indoor tanning. The clustering of risky behaviors suggests a need for coordinated, multifaceted approaches, including primary care physician counseling, to address such behaviors among adolescents.

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Thomas J. Nehmy1, Tracey D. Wade1Institutions (1)
TL;DR: The effects obtained in the current study provide support for the utility of a perfectionism intervention for reducing transdiagnostic outcomes, including unhelpful perfectionism, self-judgment, and NA, and preventing the growth of NA.
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