Several areas of research have converged over the past several years to give people a better understanding of adolescent risk-taking behavior. For many teens, taking risks and making mistakes (sometimes life-changing) is part of what adolescence is. Fortunately, a more complete understanding of peer influence, parenting, and brain development has been able to explain this process in more details.

Essentially, increased independence, opportunity, peer/cultural influence, and continued brain development (particularly the prefrontal cortex; the decision-making center) all contribute to what some adults see as erratic behavior. For a more in-depth view as well as some expert suggestions on how to keep kids out of trouble, take a look at this article from Reuters.