First Advisor

Gabriela Martorell

Term of Graduation

Spring 2009

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Human comfort, Attachment behavior, Mental health, Risk-taking (Psychology), Well-being



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 119 pages)


Previous research has primarily focused on potential negative outcomes of risk-taking (e.g., Byrnes, Miller, & Schafer, 1999). However, risk-taking may be beneficial for our mental health. Currently, the United States (U.S.) is seeing an increase in the prevalence and incidence of anxiety and depressive symptoms (N1MH, 2002, 2003, 2006; WHO, 2001). At the same time, individuals in the U.S. spend a large percentage of time in low-energy, "time wasting" activities, such as watching television (United States Department of Labor, 2007), which is in discord with how our stress response functions optimally (Sapolsky, 1998; Dhabhar, 2002). Furthermore, attachment theory posits a natural developmental pattern of exploration and fear, with felt security from a caregiver (Bowlby, 1951), and securely attached individuals report higher levels of curiosity (Arend, Gove, & Sroufe, 1979) and enjoy fewer anxiety and depressive symptoms than those with a less secure attachment (Lopez, Mauricio, Gormley, Simko, & Berger, 2001). Thus, this exploration process may be naturally beneficial for our mental health.

This study investigated the association between risk-taking and mental health outcomes and worked towards development of a measure of perceptions of riskiness. Risk-taking was defined as engaging in either a short-lived or log-range activity which evokes some level of fear for the individual while offering an opportunity for personal growth or a valued accomplishment, but also involves chancing loss. Three hundred eighteen adults completed an online survey assessing attachment pattern, internal control, and several mental health and activity-related measures. The perceptions of riskiness scale was found to require further refinement to adequately fit the theoretical structure of risk-taking, and suggestions to this end are presented. Results from this study suggest: (1) risk-taking, as defined by adventurousness, and life engagement, as defined by high activity level, are both positive predictors of mental health, (2) secure attachment and internal control are positive predictors of risk-taking tendencies, and (3) risk-taking tendencies partially mediates the relationship between secure attachment and mental health, as measure by psychological well-being. Future research should address whether participating in adventurous activities could be an effective means by which to improve health.


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