195649 A Comparison of Perceived and Independently Measured Environmental Risk and Safety for Substance Using and Non-Using Urban Adolescents

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 10:48 AM

Michael Mason, PhD , Department of Education & Human Services, Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Patricia Zelenak, RN BSN MSOD , Health Care Center Director, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Jeremy Mennis, PhD , Department of Geography & Urban Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Thomas W. Valente, PhD , Department of Preventive Medicine- Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Alhambra, CA
J. D. Coatsworth, PhD , Dept of Human Development & Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Frank Lawrence, PhD , Statistical Consulting Group, Arlington, VA
This study investigated the linkages between urban adolescents' perceptions of risky and safe places and independently measured geographic characteristics that are theorized to influence the relative risk and safety of those places, in the context of substance abuse. Data from a primary care sample of 301 adolescents were analyzed to compare the perceived and observed risk and safety associated with their home and activity space locations (routine locations). The geographic character of the neighborhood surrounding each location was summarized, including characteristics theorized to be risky, such as criminal activity and alcohol sales, and safe, such as recreation centers and churches. Adolescents' homes were typically perceived as safe despite observed measures of risk such as density of crimes and proximity to alcohol outlets, although safe and non-safe locations did not differ in geographic character. This held for both substance users and non-users. Differences in geographic character for both safe and risky activity space locations were observed for both users and non-users. Risky geographic characteristics such as proximity to bars were associated with perceptions of risk, though non-users appeared to be more sensitive to the presence of risky characteristics in the environment than users. The perceived safe places of non-users also tended to be similar in geographic character to the character of their home locations, which was not the case for users. Results highlight problems in assuming high-risk neighborhoods are experienced uniformly and provide insight into the interactive nature of place and health behaviors with urban youth.

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrates thelinkages between urban adolescentsí perceptions of risky and safe places and independently measured geographic characteristics that are theorized to influence the relative risk and safety of those places, in the context of substance abuse.

Keywords: Adolescents, Substance Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the P.I. of the NIH/NIDA funded study and have presented my work internationally. I have over 30 peer-reviewed papers, and mulitple research grants on the area of adolescent substance abuse.
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.