Risk-taking behaviour in adolescence: The influence of peers

Eleonora Cavalca

Supervisor: Dr Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin

Course: MSc in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology

Peer pressure is thought to play a major role in adolescents’ increased engagement in risk-taking behavior.

A novel behavioral paradigm, the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) was utilized to examine whether peer influences affect risk-taking behaviors among adolescents. Furthermore, this study examined whether smokers, as opposed to nonsmokers, were more susceptible to peer influences.

This study also aimed to explore if risk-taking behavior, as mediated by peer pressure, was related to impulsivity and resistance to peer influence. Results indicated that adolescents engaged in more risky-behaviors in the presence of peers.

Furthermore, findings confirmed that smokers, when compared to nonsmokers, were more likely to be influenced by peers. While no correlations were found between resistance to peer influence and risk-taking behavior, a positive correlation emerged between impulsivity and risk-taking behavior. This study suggests that peer influence affects adolescents’ engagement in risky behavior, with smokers being more influenced that nonsmokers.


  • Cavalca, E., Kong, G., Liss, T., Reynolds, E.K., Schepis, T.S., Lejuez, C.W., & Krishnan-Sarin, S. (2012). A preliminary experimental investigation of peer influence on risk-taking among adolescent smokers and non-smokers. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.