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Connection between Adolescents High-Level Stress and Poor Decision Making

Connectionbetween Adolescents High-Level Stress and Poor Decision Making

Connectionbetween Adolescents High-Level Stress and Poor Decision Making

Aliterature review is a framework that is structured to help gatherstudies related to the research topic so as to examine therelationship between the current study and studies prior as definedby Löckenhoff et al. (2012). According to Aveyard (2014), theliterature review is conducted to provide an analysis of journals,papers, and articles that provide similar or contrasting argumentsrelated to the aim of the study. The study purpose is to examine anddiscover the connection between adolescents’ high-level stress andpoor decision making. Therefore, the aim of this literature reviewwill be to provide a critical evaluation of studies that relate tothe adolescents` stress and decision making.

Overthe past few years, efforts have been directed towards understandingthe adolescents and youth and finding ways of helping them out of theever-growing ‘deviant behavior (Blakemore &amp Robbins, 2012).Initially, the characters and lifestyles of adolescents were amystery to the older generations. The generational gap proved to bean iron curtain, with generations on either side accusing the other.However, several studies have conducted and presented a wealth ofinformation regarding this very energetic age group.

Onaverage, adolescents are known to engage in risky behaviors. Research indicates that the risk appetite of adolescents increases intimes of stress. They tend to make poor decisions when under stress,indicating that stress can impair an adolescent`s decision-makingability (Blakemore &amp Robbins, 2012). There have been reportedcases of suicide and attempted suicides because of schoolexaminations, broken relationships or even seemingly bad parents.

Legaldifferences between adolescents and adults in modern systems arepremised on the fact that adolescents are immature, and thereforeless qualified as far as decision making is concerned (Gazzaniga &ampHeatherton, 2015). Someone has to help them make decisions. This iswhy legal age is set by various jurisdictions around the world. Inthe United States of America, the legal age of maturity is eighteenexcept for three states (i.e. Nebraska, Alaska, and Wyoming) wherethis age is set at nineteen (Gazzaniga &amp Heatherton, 2015). Dueto the inherent ability to make decisions, most critical decisionsare made by parents or legal guardians on behalf of the adolescents,an example being a health procedure. Health complications result instress. With the adolescent brain being inherently incapable ofhandling stress, they are likely to make decisions that accept orreject a certain procedure simply because of their stressed mind.That is why an older person is called in to give a sober decision. Inaddition, pharmacies do not sell powerful drugs to adolescents overthe counter unless they produce a prescription from a qualifiedpractitioner.

Astudy conducted by Adriana Galvan, a psychologist at the Universityof California, Los Angeles indicated that adolescents make riskierchoices than adults. Galvan used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tomonitor brain function of participants in a reward and risk videogame that involved wagering money. He used a sample of 20participants, ten teenagers and ten adults. Images of theparticipants’ brain activity at certain decisions were processedand analyzed, and it was realized that teenage participants displayedhigher activation in the reward system. They also made more riskychoices than adults. Galvan explained this as a result of theincomplete development of the prefrontal cortex in adolescents. Thisis the part of the brain that helps in regulation of behavior anddecision making.

Johnson,Dariotis and Wang (2012) conducted another study to evaluate the risktaking affinity of adolescents under stressed and unstressedcircumstances. They sampled eighty-nine adolescents who completed acomputerized risk-taking and decision-making battery at baseline.They then followed up this by randomizing participants to a controlcondition that repeated the battery with a cognitive stressor.Baseline and follow-up risk taking data were analyzed, and theresults showed that participants in the non-stressed condition tookfewer risks than those in the stressed condition.

Thestudy concluded that adolescents are likely to take risks when instressful conditions than when calm. In addition, the clusteranalysis of the data indicated that the risk taking degree among theadolescents varies with trait-related tendencies. The impulsiveadolescents are the least conscientious when taking risks understress, while conservative ones are thoughtful even when they areunder intense stress. Calculated risk-taking adolescents take fewerrisks than the impulsive ones, but more than the conservative.

Blakemoreand Mills (2014) opine that the second decade of one`s life witnesseschanges in structure and functional reorganization of the brain,bringing along a sensitive period for one to adapt to the socialenvironment. Heightened social sensitivity characterizes this stage(Blakemore &amp Mills, 2014). Seemingly minute things excite anindividual in the adolescent stage. They therefore quickly lose theircritical thinking ability and resort to rush decisions. Increasedsensitivity often results in overreaction from the adolescents.

Willoughbyet al. (2013) concede that increased physical and mental capabilitiesalong with increased morbidity amongst adolescents are a health andpsychological paradox. They state that the increased mortality ratefrom childhood to adolescence is as a result of preventable causes,top among them being risk taking. However, they argue that most riskybehaviors such as alcohol and drugs hit the peak in young adulthood,and not adolescence as such.

Astudy by Telzer et al. (2015) to examine if the quality ofadolescents’ peer relationships modulates neural sensitivity torisk taking revealed that peer conflict among adolescents results tohigher risk-taking behavior. The study was conducted over a period oftwo years, employing the three-wave longitudinal study approach.Forty-six adolescent participants completed diary entries assessingpeer conflict and peer support on a daily basis for the two years.They then completed a risk-taking task during a brain scan.Adolescents reporting high peer conflicts depicted an increasedrisk-taking behavior. On the other hand, those reporting more peersupport exhibited less risk-taking behavior. Peer conflict was foundto activate the striatum and insular, which are responsible for therisky behavior in adolescents.

VanLeijenhorst et al. (2010) conducted a study to test the hypothesisthat adolescents’ risky behavior is due to their high sensitivityto the prefrontal cortex and immature cognitive control ability. Theyused the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examineparticipants in a gambling task. The participants chose betweenlow-risk gambles with a high likelihood of low returns and high-riskgambles with a low possibility of high yields. Eighty participantswere clustered age-wise into four groups age 12-19, 20-30, 31-45 andabove 45. Their neural responses measured during choice selection andresults processing. Results indicated that high-risk gamblesincreased with increased rewards across all ages. However, risktaking decreased with age for lower reward bets. These resultsindicated that high-risk decisions are associated with the ventralmedial, prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum. These are parts ofthe brain that regulate decision making, and they are relativelybetter developed in an adolescent compared to the anterior prefrontalcortex, a regulatory component. They concluded from the findings thatthe risky behavior in adolescents is due to the imbalance betweenreward and regulatory circuits in the brain.

Theliterature reviewed has demonstrated that there is a relationshipbetween stress and decision making amongst the adolescents. Thisconnection is attributed to their neurological development stage,which is more focused on reward.


Aveyard,H. (2014). Doing a literature review in health and social care: Apractical guide. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Blakemore,S. J., &amp Mills, K. L. (2014). Is adolescence a sensitive periodfor sociocultural processing? Annualreview of psychology,65, 187-207.

Blakemore,S. J., &amp Robbins, T. W. (2012). Decision-making in the adolescentbrain. Nature neuroscience,15(9), 1184-1191.

Galván,A., &amp McGlennen, K. M. (2012). Daily stress increases riskydecision‐makingin adolescents: A preliminary study. Developmentalpsychobiology,54(4), 433-440.

Galvan,A., &amp Rahdar, A. (2013). The neurobiological effects of stress onadolescent decision making. Neuroscience,249, 223-231.

Gazzaniga,M., &amp Heatherton, T. (2015). Psychological Science: FifthInternational Student Edition.WW Norton &amp Company.

Johnson,S.B., Dariotis, J.K. &amp Wang, C. (2012). Adolescent risk-takingunder stressed and non- stressed conditions: Conservative,calculating and impulsive types. JAdolesc Health.

Löckenhoff,C. E., Cook, M. A., Anderson, J. F., &amp Zayas, V. (2012). Agedifferences in responses to progressive social exclusion: The roleof cognition and socioemotional functioning. TheJournals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Telzer,E. H., Fuligni, A. J., Lieberman, M. D., Miernicki, M. E., &ampGalván, A. (2015). The quality of adolescents’ peer relationshipsmodulates neural sensitivity to risk taking. Socialcognitive and affective neuroscience,10(3), 389-398.

VanLeijenhorst, L., Moor, B. G., de Macks, Z. A. O., Rombouts, S. A.,Westenberg, P. M., &amp Crone, E. A. (2010). Adolescent riskydecision-making: neurocognitive development of reward and controlregions. Neuroimage,51(1), 345-355.

Willoughby,T., Good, M., Adachi, P. J., Hamza, C., &amp Tavernier, R. (2013).Examining the link between adolescent brain development and risktaking from a social–developmental perspective. Brainand cognition,83(3), 315-323.