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Understanding risky behaviors during adolescence: A model of self-discovery through experimentation

Luciana Echazu and Diego Nocetti ()

International Review of Law and Economics, 2019, vol. 57, issue C, 12-21

Abstract: This paper presents a theory of risky “anti-social” behavior that links economic motives with aspects of personality development during adolescence. We show that a model in which adolescents go through a process of self-discovery and the costs and benefits of risky behavior (such as engaging in a criminal act) are revealed to them through experiential learning can replicate the pattern of initiation and desistance in such conduct typically observed in the data. In this setting, farsighted individuals have an incentive to experiment with risky behavior to resolve the uncertainty over their personality; contrary to popular belief, this means that a greater concern for the future may be linked to a stronger incentive to pursue risky activities at a young age. We also show that while stigma reduces the incentive to experiment, its effect on the prevalence of risky behavior is ambiguous. We discuss how imperfect self-knowledge may interact with other factors associated with risky behavior over the life course, including increasing penalties for repeat offenders and self-control problems.

Keywords: Risky behavior; Crime; Age-crime curve; Recidivism; Stigma; Punishment; Penalties (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: K14 K40 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:57:y:2019:i:c:p:12-21

DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2018.11.001

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