255830 School connectedness, mental health and sexual risk behaviors among runaway adolescents

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adam Leonard, RN, MPH , Department of Family Health Care Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Marla Eisenberg, ScD, MPH , Adolescent Health and Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Sonya S. Brady, PhD , Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN
Background: Seven percent of US youth age 12-17 run away from home each year. Runaway youth are at risk for poor mental and sexual health. Positive connection to school is a protective factor for adolescents in general and may hold true for this more vulnerable group. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between school connectedness, emotional well-being and sexual risk behaviors among runaway youth.

Methods: Data came from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey, a statewide survey of public school students conducted every three years. The sample was limited to students in grades 9 and 12 who reported running away from home three or more times in the previous 12 months (n=2,107). Measures included: teacher caring, school safety, emotional well-being, lifetime sexual experience, condom use at last sexual encounter and number of sexual partners.

Results: Respondents reported a high prevalence of risk factors. Increased perception of caring teachers and safe schools were positively associated with students' emotional well-being. Males who perceived teachers care had 25% lower odds of ever having had sex and 33% higher odds of using condoms at last sex compared to those who did not report high teacher caring. Females who perceived teachers care had 30% lower odds of having three or more sexual partners compared to other females.

Conclusions: Runaway adolescents' connection to school may protect them against poor mental health and sexual risk taking behaviors. Public health professionals should incorporate strategies to improve connectedness into school-based prevention programs for runaway adolescents.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related nursing
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the antecedent and contextual factors that impact runaway adolescentsí health and psychosocial well-being. 2. Explain the protective role positive school connectedness has on the health status of runaway adolescents from an evidence- and asset- based perspective. 3. Formulate maternal and child public health intervention strategies that increase school connectedness among runaway adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My graduate public health training included completing a Maternal and Child Health Bureau funded fellowship in adolescent health. I have worked with vulnerable adolescents in a variety of clinical and community settings. I also have experience writing a federal grant that secured funding for a HIV-prevention program for adolescents.
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.