Avoiding Risky Behavior

A wide variety of behaviors are considered risky, which means that they have a high probability of causing or leading to personal harm and, in some cases, death. People usually choose to engage in risky behavior because of the immediate enjoyment it offers and because they are able to convince themselves that the risks are small, or that the risks can be prevented, avoided, or controlled. They may not consider the possible long-term consequences of their behavior. Risk-taking is also sometimes encouraged by others. For example, peer pressure is strong during adolescence because that period is seen as a time of becoming independent and testing limits.

There are risks associated with nearly every activity in which the consequences are unknown or uncertain. Risky behavior can include everything from adventurous activities such as skydiving or mountain climbing to routine activities such as driving to work. Some behaviors, such as gambling or gang activity, carry an identifiable risk of loss or harm that occurs each time they are performed. For other activities, such as cigarette smoking, the resulting harm often occurs in the longer term. Because of this delayed impact, people often ignore or deny the risk involved.

Many of the health risks for today's children and adolescents are related to behavior and lifestyle. For example, risky behaviors (such as drug use and smoking) and failure to follow the basics of a healthy lifestyle (such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet) can contribute to poor health in both children and adolescents. A variety of personality traits have been identified in young children that can be used to predict risky behavior later in life. These traits include tolerance for deviance, rebelliousness, nontraditional values, emphasis on autonomy, inability to delay gratification, deemphasis on achievement, self-centeredness, and low self-esteem.

98 Environmental influences on behavior during childhood include parental and

Staying peer attitudes and behavior and the impact of the wider environment (such as the

Healthy media). Even in younger children, multiple influences can affect the use of (or intention to use) alcohol and other drugs. In many cases, a child's intentions to use alcohol can be predicted by whether his peers drink (or whether he thinks they do), whether family members drink, the child's involvement in family drinking, and the child's tendency toward risk-taking.

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