Neuromaturation and adolescent risk taking: Why development is not determinism

Sara B. Johnson, May Sudhinaraset, Robert Wm Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In the January 2009 issue of this journal, Males argues that adolescent brain science perpetuates the "myth of adolescent risk taking." He contends that those who study adolescent neuromaturation are biological determinists who ignore the profound social and environmental forces that influence adolescent behavior to further their own agendas. Males mischaracterizes developmental research and misinterprets public health data. This article analyzes his argument and provides a response based on the evidence. There is significant cross-species evidence that adolescence serves an important developmental function on the road to full maturation and is not merely an oppressive social construction. Research on neuromaturation can help elucidate both the vulnerabilities and tremendous potential of the adolescent brain. It also provides the opportunity to examine the role of social environments in shaping developmental processes and to explore how reasoned understandings of adolescent brain and biological development are being used to inform interventions that scaffold adolescent vulnerabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-23
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of adolescent research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Adolescent
  • Brain
  • Development
  • Health disparities
  • Neuromaturation
  • Public policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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