Since Beck (1992) claimed that we are now living in a “risk society” there has been an abundance of sociological research surrounding the subject. Most recently the idea of voluntary risk taking has been brought to the fore front of sociological debate. It is clear that in a society where people spend a great deal of time avoiding risks there are also people actively seeking to take part in risks. Why is this the case, and are there certain groups within society more prone to this type of risk-taking behaviour than others? In order to address this two part question effectively it is first of all necessary to discuss what voluntary risk-taking is referring to. Once this has been summarized it is then necessary to discuss the various sociological accounts of the pleasures of voluntary risk-taking, the work of such writers as Lyng (1990), Miller (1991) and Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky (1982) will be examined. Finally I will use case studies from Morrongiello and Dauber (1999), Chan and Rigakos (2002) and Green (1997) in order to assess whether there are gender differences in levels of voluntary risk-taking.
This will allow me to conclude that voluntary risk-taking is a gendered subject whereby females and males are more inclined to participate in different types of voluntary risk-taking; this is due to a number of factors such as early socialization processes, peer group and media. Firstly it is important to define the term ‘voluntary risk-taking’. Probably the most in-depth study into voluntary risk-taking has been completed by Lyng (1990).
Risk Taking Behaviors in Adolescence The prevalence of risk taking in adolescence tells us that risky behavior is a usual aspect of the adolescent life experience. Some risk taking looks like to be normal behavior for the young people. This is a very important factor to be considered by teachers in their pedagogic work. Taking risks appears to be a way of gaining self-understanding. And it does ...
He describes a specific type of voluntary risk-taking, so much so he terms this type ‘edge work’.
This is a type of voluntary risk-taking which has a strong possibility of serious injury or death. He terms this idea, ‘edge work’ as it is the type of voluntary risk-taking that has a sense of being between zones, almost a sense of of pushing oneself to the absolute limits which in turn instigates a sense of being on the edge between order and chaos. Using this type of definition for voluntary risk-taking Lyng (1990) discovered that most of the participants in this type of risk taking or ‘edge work’ thought that in order to avoid serious injury or death one had to have the inherent ‘right stuff’ in order to maintain absolute control of the chaotic situation. Psychological theory in regards to risk sees the principal pleasure of risk-taking as the “anticipated rewards” (Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky, 1982).
However, Lyng (1990) criticises this perspective fro not being inclusive of the pleasures sought in voluntary risk-taking. His case study showed that people undertaking voluntary risks placed a higher value on the experience of risk.” Some sociological accounts are more careful when generalizing about voluntary risk-taking and are more inclined to say that not everyone seeks the pleasures identified by Lyng and other sociologists.
Instead they say that there are two different personality types, those who enthusiastically search for high-risk encounters as opposed to those who apprehend such situations. As one can see this is a very self- explanatory explanation which places great emphasis on nature and neglects to include those who may be fearful of risky situations but enjoy the thrill from an activity such as motorcycling but would not actively seek other types of voluntary risks. In this sense it is not an inherent attribute that you have or do not, other structures such as peer group and media could dissuade such personalities. There is a plethora of theories and explanations as to why people take risks – from the genetic (the d 4 dopamine gene) to the cultural (recent US research shows that white men are least concerned about risk while non-white women are most concerned).
Abstract The goal of the proposed study is to assess the relationship between self-regulation, risk-taking behaviour and risk proneness in adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age. It is hypothesized that positive relationships will exist between the three variables, and that levels of each will remain fairly constant in most individuals over time. Subjects will be 12 year olds selected by ...
While the respondents talked about a range of risks, from taking out a mortgage to migration, the underlying theme was that to take a risk was to improve upon oneself. Lupton says the research shows that risk can be a way of getting out of a grind.
“People thought of themselves as being in a rut, being kind of bored with their lives and needing a new challenge. So they would take risks to do with relationships or work or study or moving to a different country or moving to a different country town. These things were seen as risky because they could have potential negative consequences, but other people often took those risks because they thought they just needed to extend themselves to change their lives in some way.” The respondents also talked about the “edge” factor, a desire to feel something, a rush, excitement, a need to break the normal bounds of the body and the mind. But on this edge, a feeling of control was also an important part of enjoying risk. Bibliography Chan, W. and Rigakos, G.
2002, ‘Risk, Crime and Gender’, British Journal of Criminology, 42: 743-761 Collison, M. 1996, ‘In Search of the High Life: Drugs, Crime, Masculinities and Consumption’, British Journal of Criminology, 36 (3): 428-444 Green, J. 1997, ‘Risk and the Construction of Social Identity: Children’s Talk about Accidents’, Sociology of Health and Illness, 19 (4): 457-479 Lupton, D. and Tulloch, J. 2002, “Risk is Part of Your Life”: Risk Epistemologies Amoung a Group of Australians’, Sociology, 36 (2): 317-334 Lyng, S.
1990, ‘Edgework: A Social Psychological Analysis of Voluntary Risk Taking’, American Journal of Sociology 95 (4): 851-86 Lyng, S. 1991, ; Edgework Revisited: Reply to Miller’, in American Journal of Sociology, 96 (6): 1534-9 Miller, E. 1991, ‘Assessing the Risk of Inattention to Class, Race/Ethnicity, and Gender: Comment on Lyng’, American Journal of Sociology.