Evolutionary psychology, demography, and driver safety research: a theoretical synthesis
Evolutionary psychologists have argued that young men are particularly prone to risk-taking in the formation of dominance hierarchies, which arise in an effort to secure resources to attract and keep females. Wilson and Daly (1985) have termed this effect the “young male syndrome”. Risk-taking involves a variety of behaviours ranging from criminal activities and extreme sports to dangerous driving. By examining data from the Canadian census and comparing it to national driving statistics related to crash and alcohol-related injuries and deaths, the following relationships were described: (1) the Canadian population has dramatically increased in the three decades following 1970, but the proportion of young males in the population has declined, (2) roadway deaths and injuries have decreased despite the increase in the number of vehicles on the road, (3) young men from 16-29 years of age are disproportionately involved in collisions causing deaths and injuries whether as drivers, passengers, or pedestrians, (4) young men are disproportionately involved in alcohol-related crashes causing death and injury. A model was developed to illustrate the effect of demographic factors, evolutionary principles, situational factors, societal influences, and media effects to explain risky male activities. Alternative explanations based on brain maturation and the effects of stress, producing aggression, are discussed.
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