Avoidance of Risky Behaviors

Compositive Model

Avoidance of Risky Behaviors

Adolescents take more risks than individuals at other stages of development, and risky behavior during adolescence often includes substance use, risky sexual behaviors, and delinquency, all of which can imperil physical wellbeing.

Research indicates

  • Peers can increase risk-taking behaviors like substance abuse during adolescence, while parents can serve as a protective factor against substance use.
  • A positive family environment led to declines in adolescents’ alcohol behaviors. A positive family environment was linked to fewer friends and peers who drank alcohol, which mitigated the risk posed by peers and friends.
  • A wide body of research indicates that parent-child connectedness is associated with a variety of positive outcomes among adolescents, including not having intercourse, delaying first intercourse, lower frequency of intercourse and less risky intercourse.
  • In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey of youth behavior, 16.6 percent of high school students carried a weapon and 5.4 percent brought a weapon on school property at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey (Eaton et al., 2012). 12 percent of high school students had been in a physical fight on school property in the last year.
  • In that same survey, just under half (47.4 percent) of high school students reported ever having sex and 15.3 percent reported that they had sexual intercourse with four or more people over the course of their lifetime.
  • Risky behaviors during adolescence are linked to a variety of negative outcomes later in life, including psychological problems, criminality, and poorer interpersonal relationships. 

Promising practices

  • Teen Outreach Program is a volunteer program that is designed to prevent problem behaviors such as teen pregnancy and school failure and consists of volunteer activities and discussions.
  • A 1997 study found that youth who participated the intervention were less likely to experience academic problems (e.g., failing a course and being suspended) and were less likely to have gotten pregnant.
  • Second Step is a violence prevention program that targets school-aged children and is designed to improve children’s anger management and other social skills.
  • Children who participated in the program demonstrated a variety of positive outcomes, including positive student behavior, decreases in anti-social behavior, and decreases in aggressive behavior.
  • Positive Action is a school-based intervention program that targets character, skills and attitudes among K-12 students to prevent risky behaviors (e.g., substance abuse and delinquency) and promote positive academic growth.
  • A study found that that program participants reported lower levels of substance use and violence compared to students who did not participate in the intervention.
  • Communities That Care is a program that delivers training and materials to community members to help provide services and programs that meet the unique needs of individual communities and, by doing so, aims to reduce risky behaviors.
  • Youth in CTC communities demonstrated lower levels of risk factors and were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior between 5th and 7th grade.
  • Safer Choices is a program designed to reduce unprotected sexual intercourse among high school students. The program includes an educational component that teaches youth about community resources and a school community component in which teams and council are created that help promote a healthy culture in the school.
  • Participants reported more positive behavioral and educational outcomes in the short-, intermediate-, and long-term follow-up assessments.

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