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Young Males Take More Voluntary Risks Than Any Other Social Group

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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 Dawber (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 socialisation 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). He describes a specific type of voluntary risk-taking, so much so he terms this type 'edgework'. This is a type of voluntary risk-taking which has a strong possibility of serious injury or death. He terms this idea, 'edgework' as it is the type of voluntary risk-taking that has a sense of being between zones, almost a sense of liminality 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 'edgework' 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 generalising 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



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