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Effects of Youth Assets on Adolescent Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana Use, and Sexual Behavior

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana use, and sexual behaviors are consistently reported by high school students in the United States and can contribute to reduced quality of life. Empirical research finds that many assets may act as a protective factor for adolescent risk behaviors. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the associations of youth assets and adolescent engagement in alcohol, cigarette, marijuana use, and sexual behavior among students 14-18 years in a rural state.

METHODS: Participants consisted of a random sample of 834 students aged 14-18 years attending two public school districts in rural Tennessee. A survey that assessed behaviors, knowledge, and youth assets was administered to these students during the spring of the school year.

RESULTS: Analysis found that a large percentage of students had engaged in alcohol, tobacco, marijuana use, and sexual behaviors. Additionally, it was discovered that some youth assets such as future aspirations, parental expectations, and positive peer influence were associated with a lower prevalence of adolescent substance use and sexual behavior. Furthermore, assets seem to be more protective in this sample of 14-18 year olds for past 30 days behavior compared to ever having used a substance (i.e., alcohol, tobacco, marijuana) or ever having had sexual intercourse.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that substance use and sexual behaviors among adolescents vary by youth asset. As such, it is important to realize that interventions designed to reduce alcohol, tobacco, marijuana use, and sexual behavior using an asset development framework needs to be tailored.

Keywords: ATOD; sexual behavior; youth assets; adolescents; rural

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Adolescent risk behaviors are a significant issue that can contribute to reduced quality of life. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana use, and sexual behaviors are consistently reported by high school student in the United States. Results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), found that 72.5% of high school students had at least one drink of alcohol during their lifetime, and 41.8% had at least one drink in the past 30 days. Additionally, this study found that 46.3% of students had tried cigarettes, and 19.5% had smoked in the past 30 days. Also, 36.8% of students had used marijuana in their lifetime, and 20.8% had used it in the past 30 days. Furthermore, this study found that 46% of students had sexual intercourse in their lifetime. (2009 National Youth Risk Behaviro Survey Overview) Differences have been observed on substance use and sexual behaviors by males and females. For example, in a 2009 CDC study it was reported that females were more likely to have had at least one drink of alcohol in their lifetime, whereas males were more likely to have used marijuana and used in the past 30 days. No differences were observed for ever having sexual intercourse or past 30 days sexual intercourse. (National YRBS 2009)

Research has found that the more risk factors an adolescent has (e.g., poor family communication, peer pressure, lack of family support) the likelihood increases of being involved in risk behaviors such as substance use and sexual behaviors. (Schinke, Fang, Cole, 2008) (Cleveland, Feinberg, Bontempo, Greenberg, 2008) Substance use and abuse can lead to many negative consequences including death, disability and poor judgment. For example, adolescents who begin using substances at an early age are more likely to experience dependency later in life. (Chen, Storr, Anthony, 2008) (Brook, Brook, Zhang, 2002) As such, prevention and early intervention are key to reducing the harm that may result from adolescent substance use. Enhancing adolescent youth assets has been suggested as an important way to intervene in the health risk behaviors of adolescents. A youth asset model emphasizes socialization and support from sources such as family, peers, and school. …