Peril, chance, adventure: concepts of risk, alcohol use and risky behavior in young adults


  • Barbara C. Leigh


This paper discusses issues in applying concepts of "risk" to alcohol use. There is a wide variety of definitions of "risk," including dimensions of positive vs. negative aspects of risk-taking, short-term vs. long-term harm, generality vs. specificity of risk behaviors, knowledge of probability of harm, and objective vs. subjective risk. Alcohol can play a role in risky behavior on multiple levels. The paper describes the methods used to examine a link between alcohol and risk-taking (population-based, person-based, event-based and experimental methods) and illustrates these methods from research findings on the association of alcohol to risky driving, crime and violent behavior, and sexual risk-taking. Theoretical models of the association of alcohol and risk-taking are outlined, and the implications of these models for alcohol policy and prevention are discussed.