A neuroscience perspective on sexual risk behavior in adolescence and emerging adulthood

Elizabeth C. Victor, Ahmad R. Hariri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Late adolescence and emerging adulthood (specifically ages 15-24) represent a period of heightened sexual risk taking resulting in the greatest annual rates of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies in the US population. Ongoing efforts to prevent such negative consequences are likely to benefit from a deepening of our understanding of biological mechanisms through which sexual risk taking emerges and biases decision making during this critical window. Here we present a neuroscience framework from which a mechanistic examination of sexual risk taking can be advanced. Specifically, we adapt the neurodevelopmental triadic model, which outlines how motivated behavior is governed by three systems: approach, avoidance, and regulation, to sexual decision making and subsequent risk behavior. We further propose a testable hypothesis of the triadic model, wherein relatively decreased threat-related amygdala reactivity and increased reward-related ventral striatum reactivity leads to sexual risk taking, which is particularly exaggerated during adolescence and young adulthood when there is an overexpression of dopaminergic neurons coupled with immature top-down prefrontal cortex regulation. We conclude by discussing how future research based on our adapted triadic model can inform ongoing efforts to improve intervention and prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-487
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Volume28
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

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Neurosciences
Risk-Taking
Sexual Behavior
Decision Making
Unplanned Pregnancy
Dopaminergic Neurons
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Systems Analysis
Amygdala
Prefrontal Cortex
Reward
Population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

A neuroscience perspective on sexual risk behavior in adolescence and emerging adulthood. / Victor, Elizabeth C.; Hariri, Ahmad R.

In: Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 28, No. 2, 01.05.2016, p. 471-487.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Victor, Elizabeth C. ; Hariri, Ahmad R. / A neuroscience perspective on sexual risk behavior in adolescence and emerging adulthood. In: Development and Psychopathology. 2016 ; Vol. 28, No. 2. pp. 471-487.
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