Understanding Risk-Taking in Adolescents
The Carlat Child Psychiatry Report, Volume 8, Number 8, November 2017
Jess Shatkin, MD
Vice chair for education and professor of child & adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at the New York University School of Medicine. Author of Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe (Penguin Random House).
Dr. Shatkin has disclosed that he has no relevant financial or other interests in any commercial companies pertaining to this educational activity.
In this interview, Dr. Shatkin talks about how the adolescent brain works, and how we can use this understanding to work more effectively in our practices with both adolescents and their parents. There’s a misconception that dopamine equates to pleasure. It’s not pleasure; it’s the promise of pleasure. Dopamine is the idea that something great might happen. And so high dopamine levels drive kids into high-risk situations with high amounts of potential pleasure. This is aggravated by the fact that the frontal cortical areas are not well myelinated yet and not well connected to the limbic system. So, when kids are younger, they have less control over those impulsive drives.