“The amount of binge-drinkers continues to increase – waiting for the first death” (Aantal comazuipers blijft stijgen – ‘wachten op eerste dode’) Van den Dool, 2012; NRC Newspaper (NRC Handelsblad), 25 april 2012

Even without explicitly mentioning the words “teenagers”, “youth” or “adolescents” in this Dutch newspaper headline, the readers already grasp that such headlines are referring to adolescent binge-drinkers (“comazuipers”). This newspaper headline and other recent headlines reflect the ongoing public debates about underage drinking and adolescent risk-taking behaviors in general.

Have you ever wondered: Why are adolescents such “Dare Devils” anyway? Why do individuals begin to take more risks (e.g., “comazuipen”/binge drinking) during the adolescence phase?  Is it because of their personality (e.g., higher impulsivity and sensation-seeking levels), or is it (also) because they have more and more opportunities to engage in risk-taking behaviors?

If these questions have ever crossed your mind, then this thesis topic might be of interest to you.

A recent meta-analysis (Defoe, Dubas, Figner, & van Aken, 2015) on age differences in risk-taking showed that generally adolescents actually engage in equal levels of risks as children on behavioral risk-taking tasks (e.g., computerized gambling tasks) in controlled laboratory settings. Thus adolescents and children appear to be equally susceptible to engage in risk-taking. But if this is the case, why do adolescents appear to take more risks than children in the real-world? This question is currently a puzzle for researchers who investigate heightened adolescent risk-taking. The current project centers around risk behaviors that either show a dramatic increase or a peak during adolescence, such as alcohol use, marijuana use and delinquency.

Research Methods

The bachelor thesis students will collect risk-taking research data from children and adolescents, via questionnaires and behavioral risk-taking tasks in order to answer some of the above-described questions.  Students who choose this research project will be involved in setting up a creative experiment to investigate these questions. This is an exciting and challenging task that requires conscientious, creative and ambitious students who are eager to answer complex questions about adolescent risk behavior using innovative methods. The students will write their thesis on the experimental data they have collected.


Defoe, I. N., J. S. Dubas, B. Figner, and M. A. G. van Aken. A meta-analysis on age differences in risky decision making: Adolescents versus children and adults. Psychological Bulletin 141 (2015): 48-84.


Interested in this project? Contact the BA-Thesis coordinator J.Gutteling at