Study – Risk taking motivation in emerging adults
The most common motivations for why emerging adults (ages 18-26) take risks are personal growth, achievement, to avoid missing out, and enjoyment/satisfaction. The findings from this study could be helpful in understanding what motivated your client towards less-than-functional behavior, and what might instead motivate functional behavior. Personal growth was the most cited motivation, and could be easily leveraged to promote positive change with compassionate Socratic questions.
Example: “It’s a bummer you have to do two days in jail for this DUI. Just so you know, IF you get another DUI the minimum mandatory jail time is 30 days. [Pause for a moment to let that sink in.] I know you didn’t intend to get a DUI. Sometimes intentions aren’t enough to help us out. Would you like to talk about some ideas of how you can avoid that happening again?” This could be replaced by or followed with “Do you have any ideas?” and then explore them. “Here’s some examples of what other clients of mine have done…” If needed, offer some suggestions to see if you can get the client’s thinking going in a positive direction, and reinforce the newly budding neural structures that are developing to help avoid the repetition of the negative experience.
Part of a counselor’s job is to educate the client. For lawyers, this classically involves educating about the law and the legal system. Beyond that, we do our clients a service if we can motivate them to make beneficial changes, so the Integrative Client-Centered Model (ICCM) incorporates various motivation theories and offers several motivation-enhancing techniques. Beyond that even, a more sophisticated and powerful technique counselors can use is to evoke change. Evoking, a concept and technique described in Motivational Interviewing, involves drawing out the client’s own motivation and commitment and not imposing ideas, while emphasizing the client’s autonomy and right to make choices. In order to educate, motivate, or evoke, understanding what is important to the client is critical. The abstract of the study below provides a nice little piece of insight into the mind of young adults.
Russell D. Ravert and Jessica Gomez-Scott
Why Take Risks? Four Good Reasons According to Emerging Adult College Students
Journal of Adolescent Research September 2015 30: 565-585, first published on August 14, 2014 doi:10.1177/0743558414547099
College-attending emerging adults (ages 18-26, n = 233) were asked to describe their personal philosophy on taking risks. “Taking risks” was undefined, in order to allow for individual interpretation. Thematic coding was used to assess the degree of endorsement, reasons to take risks, and reasons to avoid risks cited in responses. Whereas 7.3% of students focused solely on risk avoidance, 55.4% stressed the importance of weighing pros and cons, and 37.3% fully endorsed risk taking. Among reasons cited for taking risks, the most common motivation was personal growth, followed by achievement, to avoid missing out, and enjoyment/satisfaction. Results are discussed with regard to theory of emerging adulthood, and a conceptual distinction is made between hedonic versus eudaimonic risk motivations.
Authors note: Eudaimonic? Well, it’s definition is an interesting story for another day. The concept is one which informs the ICCM’s Hierarchy of Needs in Conflict and the Four-Step Process of Change. Here’s an article with a thoughtful overview of the Eudaimonic concept: