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Risk-taking behaviour: the causes

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

What is risk taking behaviour?

Risk-taking behaviour usually refers to behaviour that may not necessarily have a positive outcome. Deciding to take part in risk-taking behaviour may have long term consequences for the person involved and may even put others lives in danger. Examples of the most common risk-taking behaviours include:

  • dangerous driving

  • anti-social behaviour

  • deliberate self-harm

  • severe dieting

  • unprotected sex

  • overeating

What causes risk-taking behaviours in young people?

There are many reasons why young people get involved in risk-taking behaviours. Some of the reasons include:


A young person may feel that their lives are dull and boring and they want some excitement so they try a risk taking behaviour for the thrill and excitement.

Attention Seeking

A young person may feel lonely and isolated from their friends/family/parents and feel those people have no time for them so taking part in a risk taking activity will get them noticed and can be a way to get attention.

Peer pressure

Young people may be influenced by their friends encouraging or pressurising them to take part in risk-taking behaviour. The young person may want to 'fit-in' with their group of friends and not seem like the 'odd-one-out' by not taking part.


A young person may want to see what all the fuss is about and so take a risk to try something new and find out what it is like.

Media influence

A young person may see celebrities involved in risk-taking behaviours like smoking/drinking and they want to follow what their favourite celebrity does.

Rebellion against parents

A young person may protest against their parents and take part in risk taking behaviours to prove to them that they are more mature than they are being treated at home.

To look cool

A young person may think they look cool when they take part in risk-taking behaviour and think that this impresses other people in their company/friendship group.

Being under the influence of drugs/alcohol

A young person may be under the influence of alcohol/drugs and so may be more open to suggestions and taking part on risk-taking behaviour as they are not thinking clearly.

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