A new study has found that adolescents have lower decision making skills than adults, which lead them to make much riskier choices.
"The study's findings have important implications for debates about whether adolescents should be held to the same standards of criminal and other responsibility as adults," said study's author Dustin Albert, a researcher at Temple University.
The study tested a diverse group of 890 individuals between the ages of 10 and 30, using a computerized test of strategic planning and problem solving called the Tower of London.
The test asks individuals to rearrange a stack of three differently colored balls to match a picture of a new arrangement, using as few moves as possible.
Older test takers did better on the tower test, showing greater ability to plan ahead and solve problems.
On the hardest problems, mature performance wasn't seen until at least age 22.
Since solving the hardest problems on the test is known to make strong demands on the brain's frontal lobes and teens' frontal lobes are still maturing, this finding wasn't unexpected, explained the researchers.
Follow-up analyses suggested that when older individuals (those in their late teens and early adult years) did better on the tests, it was because of improvements in impulse control, which may have allowed them to plan their solutions more fully before they acted.
The findings appeared in the journal Child Development.