North Star Youth Partnership

North Star Youth Partnership engages youth ages 11-18 through educational, recreational, leadership and service-learning opportunities. What started in 1997 as an educational program to prevent adolescent pregnancy in Yavapai County has expanded to 11 different programs serving youth in Central and Northern Arizona.

Monday, 17 July 2023

Understanding Why Teens Take Risks

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Adults often wonder why teens make the decisions they make, even when there are glaring consequences. The truth is that teens’ brains are still developing, including the parts of the brain responsible for emotions and decision-making. This can lead teens to take part in risky behaviors like premarital sex.

There are a variety of factors that can influence teens to engage in high-risk behaviors. A teen who has poor relationships with adults in their life or lacks boundaries may be more likely to take these kinds of risks. For teens who turn to their peers or social media for guidance, misinformation or peer pressure can result in risk-taking.

Teens and Emotional Attachment

It’s important to understand how risky behaviors like premarital sex affect a teen’s brain. During sexual activity, the brain releases chemicals like oxytocin (mainly present in females) and vasopressin (present in males). These chemicals create a strong emotional attachment between two people who are physically intimate.

Although the same bonding process happens in adults, it is much more intense for teens because of their developing brains. By having premarital sex, teens form attachments to their partners that are extremely difficult to break. They may feel as though they can’t get out of the relationship, even if it is toxic or abusive.

Having sex at a young age can also lead to cyclical sexual relationships (date, have sex, break up, date someone new, have sex, break up, etc.). This can cause teens to place more importance on sex than on developing meaningful relationships. Not to mention, having multiple partners means teens are more likely to experience the consequences of premarital sex and become desensitized to those consequences.

Talk to Your Teen

As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to talk to your teen about risk-taking behaviors. Discuss with them the difference between taking a positive risk and taking a risk that could result in negative consequences. Encourage your teen to take small, beneficial risks like trying out for a sports team, getting their driver’s license, or starting a new hobby.

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Cristy Leonard

Cristy Leonard is the Health Education Supervisor in Maricopa for North Star Youth Partnership. Cristy earned her bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and has been teaching for 25 years. She has been providing Health Education through North Star Youth Partnership to teens throughout the Valley since 2003.


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