Predictors of Positive and Negative Risk-Taking in Adolescents and Young Adults: Similarities and Differences


  • Joanna Fryt
  • Monika Szczygieł


Although the risk-taking can potentially result in positive and negative outcomes, most of the researchers focused on its negative, not positive manifestations. Recently, Duell and Steinberg proposed a framework that clarifies the features of positive risk-taking. Research comparing positive and negative risk-taking increased and new measures have been developed. The presented study was designed to examine how the construct of positive risk-taking differs or overlaps with its opposite, negative risk-taking, and whether both are predicted by the same or different factors. Two hundred fifty eight (258) adolescents and young adults (aged 16-29) participated in the study. We tested self-reported sensitivity to reward and punishment, self-control, tolerance to ambiguity, trait anxiety, and gender as possible predictors of positive and negative risk-taking. We also referred both types of risk-taking to domain-specific risk-taking. We found that positive risk-taking is driven by sensitivity to reward and tolerance to ambiguity, and occurs especially in the social domain. Negative risk-taking is driven by gender, sensitivity to reward and (low) sensitivity to punishment, and occurs in all domains except social. Results indicate that positive risk-taking is chosen for exploration and personal growth by people who look for rewards in the social world and is done in a socially accepted way. Negative risk-taking is chosen by people who are not discouraged by severe negative effects and look for rewards outside existing norms.