Christina Riggs Romaine’s Risk-Taking Publication

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Christina Riggs Romaine, was published in the journal Emerging Adulthood. This interdisciplinary, international journal is about the developing minds of people in their late teens and twenties. It is published in association with the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood which works on advancing the understanding of the psychology of emerging adults. Riggs Romaine’s paper, titled Psychosocial Maturity and Risk-Taking in Emerging Adults: Extending Our Understanding Beyond Delinquency, is about the relationship between maturity and the dangerous risks that emerging adults take.

Through her empirical study of more than 500 emerging adults, Riggs Romaine found that while different factors of maturity were related to certain risk styles and risk-taking behaviors, only temperance (the ability to limit impulses and suppress anger) was related to many aspects of risk taking. Temperance is one aspect of the concept of psychosocial maturity, that also includes perspective-taking and personal responsibility. Furthermore, her research is the first to show that maturity, especially the temperance aspect, is not just a good indicator of delinquent (i.e., illegal) risk-taking behaviors, but also predicts broad risk taking behaviors that can negatively impact a person’s health and safety.

Riggs Romaine’s research adds to a new and growing body of evidence on how increasing temperance and psychosocial maturity may reduce the illegal activities associated with risk-taking behavior. It also serves to expand what we think of as risk taking behavior, beyond the delinquent, illegal activities, to include health and safety risks like texting while driving, and drinking too much alcohol. Such risky behaviors are prevalent among emerging adults (youth ages 18-25) and the current research has implications for policy and interventions to limit dangerous risk-taking.

Riggs Romaine has conducted extensive research on the topic of court involved youth, and runs the Law and Psychology lab here at Wheaton. The lab studies the intersection of law and psychology, especially in the juvenile court. The lab accepts volunteers and research partners, and encourages students to pursue their own research and or write honors theses. The lab has produced 7 student authored and co-authored posters and presentations for the American Psychological Association and American Psychology-Law Society conferences.