Physical Recklessness in Adolescence: Trait or Byproduct of Depressive/Suicidal States?

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The authors assessed adolescents (264 psychiatric inpatients and 742 high school students) with a new instrument (the Sommerfeldt-Clark Adolescent Recklessness Scale) to test whether adolescents show individual differences on a dimension ranging from physical caution to physical recklessness. The three dimensions that emerged reflect an interest in weapons and military dangers, which we have tentatively labeled “foolhardiness”; the combination of dangerous driving and substance abuse; and involvement with smoking, drug use, and “bad company.” The personality traits of “venturesomeness” and “impulsiveness” were significantly correlated with all three recklessness factors. The first two factors showed no significant relationship with patient status, diagnosis of mood disorder, or history of suicidal behavior; the third factor was associated with inpatient status and a history of suicide attempts.

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