175781 Risk prone or risk adverse: Sensation seeking and adolescent health risk behavior

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lynn Agre, MPH, PHD , School of Social Work/DIMACS/CCICADA, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
N. Andrew Peterson, PhD , School of Social Work, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
This paper examines how adolescent risk proneness (sensation seeking) in conjunction with psychosocial factors (mastery, self-esteem and depression) and environmental influences (parenting and neighborhood quality) predict likelihood to engage in deleterious health risk behaviors, i.e. alcohol, tobacco use and sexual activity. Using the NLSY 1998 young adult cohort (ages 14-21), scales based on Rosenberg self-esteem, Pearlin mastery and CES-D depression measures are formulated, together with neighborhood and parent-child relationship assessments, and Zuckerman risk propensity self-evaluation (all with Cronbach's alpha reliability =.7) to test the multivariate relationship on the outcome severity indexes of high tobacco and alcohol utilization, and sexual involvement. In preliminary models, discriminant and MANCOVA analyses (n=354) are applied to elucidate profiles of adolescents at higher and lower risk of early substance use and sexual behavior initiation. These statistical classification methods, then, reveal that younger white males with higher self-esteem, higher mastery, higher depressive symptoms, but poorer parenting and lower quality neighborhoods, have higher self-rated risk proneness scores, indicating they are more likely to engage in conduct detrimental to health (with significance less than .05). Similarly, younger black females with higher self-esteem, lower mastery, lower depression and poorer parenting and lower neighborhood quality also have greater propensity to appraise themselves as risk prone. Indeed, interaction between socio-emotional environment and sensation seeking during teen years can set the stage for later-life deleterious health outcomes. Thus, risky behavior patterns established in early adulthood have implications for a life course trajectory of co-morbid mental and physical conditions in middle and older adulthood.

Learning Objectives:
(1) Evaluate effects of individual, family and neighborhood quality on adolescent substance use and sexual activity. (2) Explain the relationship of the individual adolescent to the environmental context and how these factors are associated with co-morbid mental and physical health conditions. (3) Describe how self-esteem, mastery, depression and sensation seeking are linked to health risk behaviors.

Keywords: Child/Adolescent Mental Health, Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted this study as part of my doctoral dissertation research at Rutgers University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.