Getting better all the time: Trends in risk behavior among American adolescents since 1990.

SCIENTIFIC Contrary to the negative narrative in psychology and in the American public, many trends in the risk behaviors of American adolescents have been positive in recent decades. Evidence is presented for positive trends in four areas: substance use, unprotected sex, crime, and hazardous automobile driving. A comparison of American adolescents to older Americans and to adolescents in other developed countries indicates that the pattern of positive trends is distinct to young Americans and does not apply consistently across age groups and countries. Three explanations for the positive trends are considered: the effects of public policies, closer parent–child relationships, and the social consequences of electronic media use. The most promising hypothesis is that a rise in electronic media use led to a decline in unstructured socializing, which led in turn to lower risk behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)