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The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do

by Lynn E. Ponton

Dr. Lynn Ponton has devoted her clinical practice to a particular community-teenagers in trouble. Whether these kids are struggling with peers, experimenting with drugs, stealing cars, or having unprotected sex, they have something in common: they are all involved in unhealthy risk-taking. And their parents are scared. "How did my child get involved in this dangerous situation?" they ask. "And what can I do?"Their fears are justified: today's teens have moreopportunities for taking dangerous risks than ever before. But inThe Romance of Risk,Dr. Ponton refutes the traditional idea that risk-taking is primarily an angry power struggle with parents-so-called teenage rebellion-and re-defines it as a potentially positive testing process whereby challenge and risk are the primary tools adolescents use to find out who they are and determine who they will become. This new perspective is revealed in a series of mesmerizing tales about individual adolescents and their families. Among others, we meet Jill, a 13-year-old thrill-seeking runaway; Hannah, a privileged daughter of suburbia who suffers from anorexia; and Joe, a high school senior with a serious drinking problem. Through these stories, we come to understand Dr. Ponton's startling observation that teenagers must confront and experience challenge and risk along the path to self-discovery. For adolescents, the powerful allure of the adult world is equaled only by the fear of failing to find a place in it. Parents can ease that transition into adulthood, however, by promoting healthy risk-taking so that dangerous options will be avoided. InThe Romance of Risk,parents will learn how they can begin to understand rather than fear adolescent risk-taking, and how to communicate with their children about it. After all, teenagers will always romanticize risk. But with the support and guidance of parents and other adults, odds are the risks they take will be the right ones.

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