Cynthia Lightfoot
Pennsylvania State University, Human Development and Family Studies, Media (PA), USA




After a protracted period of viewing adolescent risk involvement as singularly problematic, developmentalists are beginning to consider the possibility that it may also have some functional utility for psychosocial development. The purpose of the work to be reported is to broaden the scope of this reasoning by outlining and illustrating a theoretical perspective from which adolescent risk-taking is viewed as a moral enterprise. In particular, insights from interpretive developmental approaches, including narrative and cultural psychology and literary theory, permit an exploration of adolescent risk-taking as a meaning making process through which different moral discourses are brought into dialogical contact in ways that both anticipate and frame the emergence of a future self. Using Bakhtin's distinction between a prior, acknowledged, authoritative discourse and an emerging, experimental, internally persuasive discourse, it will be argued that such engagement with another's discourse contributes directly to the further development and articulation of one's future social identity, as well as the awareness that one has a social identity of moral consequence. Interview material will be used to trace the emergent struggle between distinct moral discourses across the adolescent years.