207079 Mediational effects of sensation seeking on adolescent health risk behaviors by mother's educational attainment

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lynn Agre, MPH , School of Social Work, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
N. Andrew Peterson, PhD , School of Social Work, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
This study examines if self-rated risk perception (risk proneness) mediates the effects of health behavior determinants, which include depression, parenting and neighborhood quality on health behaviors. While peer pressure could be a measure of influence, little research has explored the effect of parental education, especially maternal education as a protective factor/social support mechanism in predicting health behavior outcomes. This research utilizes a national representative sample, the NLSY 1998 Young Adult cohort, to demonstrate the mediational role of risk proneness – how environment influences cognition – in safeguarding against adolescent deleterious health choices. Self-rated risk proneness, in conjunction with the psychosocial and environmental factors, is evaluated in path analysis (n=1786) as a mediating step to engaging in alcohol and tobacco use and sexual behavior. Results reveal that depressive symptoms are an underlying factor in risk proneness (higher sensation seeking likelihood) among white adolescents whose mothers have lower educational attainment, particularly females engaging in concomitant alcohol use and sexual risk taking. However, depression has no association with risk proneness among African American adolescents whose mothers have higher educational attainment or lower educational attainment. Yet, path analysis does demonstrate, through temporal ordering, that risk proneness (sensation seeking) is a mediator in the sequence to alcohol use and sexual risk taking among white adolescents of mothers with both higher and lower educational attainment, and among African American adolescents of mothers with lower educational attainment. These group differences in mother's educational attainment contribute to the development of targeted community interventions among adolescents in varied neighborhood contexts.

Learning Objectives:
1. Examine how mother’s education level as a risk or protective factor/social support mechanism can predict adolescent deleterious or prosocial health behaviors through intergenerational transfer of health. 2. Apply path analysis to elucidate differences between and within adolescent groups by maternal educational attainment. 3. Identify psychosocial profiles of vulnerable adolescents, at the individual, family and environmental level for targeted intervention strategies.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Risk Taking Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Research conducted as part of doctoral work in partial completion of the Ph.D. in Social Work from 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.