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Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2013 Apr;22(2):114-120.

Peer Influences on Adolescent Decision Making.

Author information

1
Duke University.
2
Temple University.

Abstract

Research efforts to account for elevated risk behavior among adolescents have arrived at an exciting new stage. Moving beyond laboratory studies of age differences in "cool" cognitive processes related to risk perception and reasoning, new approaches have shifted focus to the influence of social and emotional factors on adolescent neurocognition. We review recent research suggesting that adolescent risk-taking propensity derives in part from a maturational gap between early adolescent remodeling of the brain's socio-emotional reward system and a gradual, prolonged strengthening of the cognitive control system. At a time when adolescents spend an increasing amount of time with their peers, research suggests that peer-related stimuli may sensitize the reward system to respond to the reward value of risky behavior. As the cognitive control system gradually matures over the course of the teenage years, adolescents grow in their capacity to coordinate affect and cognition, and to exercise self-regulation even in emotionally arousing situations. These capacities are reflected in gradual growth in the capacity to resist peer influence.

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