NCBI Bookshelf. The workshop discussions of biobehavioral and psychological perspectives on adolescent risk behavior alluded repeatedly to the importance of the cultural and social nore in which young people develop.
Presenters described research on the ways family, peers, schools, communities, and media and technology influence adolescent behavior and risk-taking. Conger explained. He described some of the evidence for these effects, the specific processes involved, and some of the implications for intervention. Nancy A. Zexting described the relationship between family influences and particular risk behaviors, as well as interventions that have been developed to alter these influences.
The social causation mayve, Conger explained, provides a framework for considering the way in which economic disadvantage and social conditions affect family functioning and the ways that children develop.
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Recent studies have provided evidence that economic factors influence families. Costello and colleaguesfor example, found that children whose families were lifted out of poverty when a gambling casino opened on an Indian reservation showed improvement in both psychiatric symptoms and conduct problems. The researchers concluded that the improvements came maybe in part because of improved parenting practices. Experimental studies, such as the New Hope study Huston et al.
Researchers have described three primary models for thinking about how economic factors influence families: the family stress model, the investment model, and the interactionist model. Research on the family stress model goes more to the s, Conger said, and has since been well replicated using many samples from diverse backgrounds. It is based on evidence from both human and animal studies that punishing experiences, such as economic pressure, 1 exacerbate negative affect, which can take many forms, such as despondency, depression, anger, or aggression Berkowitz, These sorts of emotions can disrupt family relationships.
The effect of the hardship depends on the way it affects daily life—in other words, the emotional response sexting the family and the individual are what determines the psychological effect of the event. When parents become depressed, angry, and sullen with one another and have increased conflict, the result is often harsh and inconsistent parenting or withdrawal.
For adolescents, that can mean increases in risky behavior and less development of the sorts of competencies that protect them from those risks. Conger observed that other sorts of distress may also affect families in the same way. That is, when stress and challenge are high for parents, they generally have an increase in emotional and behavioral problems, which in turn affect family functioning and increase risks for children.
The model, which is consistent with findings from numerous studies Conger et al. However, although the downward spiral can occur very quickly, such interventions work much more maybe. Promising targets include:. The family stress model of economic hardship. Reproduced with permission from Sage Publications. While these approaches appear to hold promise, Conger identified areas in which further research is needed. For example, not enough is known about potentially lasting effects of hardship experienced by young children and how they might affect adolescent behavior and risk-taking.
The role of self-regulatory and personality processes, which can play a protective role, could also be better understood. Gonzales focused in greater detail on the ways in which families influence adolescent risk behavior and effective interventions. Effective parenting, she explained nurturing, supportive parenting that includes clear and consistent disciplinecan prevent negative behaviors and also promote prosocial behaviors and values.
It also helps children develop various competencies that are also protective. Parental monitoring and supervision may prevent children from associating with deviant peers. Family members may model risk behaviors and deviance or effective emotional and social skills, and they may also endow their children with genes that predispose them to certain risks e. Thus, most family interventions are attempts to change one or more of these processes, and a variety of evidence from cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental prevention trials has yielded support for several conclusions NRC and IOM, :.
Many social risk factors have been shown to increase the likelihood that adolescents will engage in risk behaviors as well as to disrupt parenting and family processes. Thus, parenting and family processes are the most common targets of interventions for families experiencing adversity, such as economic hardship; parental divorce, death, or mental illness; or parental criminal activity. Research has shown that these core times work the same way across many racial and ethnic groups; where cultural differences are evident, they reveal differences in the magnitude of the effect.
Core family values, expectations, and goals, more, do vary across ethnic groups, and these differences must be taken into when implementing family interventions, Gonzales said. Different risks as well as protective family resources are common in different groups, and these can also be addressed through culturally tailored interventions. Although the evidence for the effectiveness of interventions that target these processes is strong, the challenge is to identify and reach the families that need them.
Gonzales used the ecological transactional framework, shown in Figureto illustrate the array of influences that affect adolescents. She explained that the family plays a central role in negotiating these influences and has the potential to help protect the adolescent or the reverse. Families vary, for example, in the extent to which they encourage and support education, monitor and manage peer activities, and so forth. Tmies neighborhoods present different sets of risks and require different strategies.
Ecological transactional framework. Prevention researchers distinguish among universal interventions delivered to all members of a populationselective interventions delivered to segments of a population identified as being at high risk for a particular outcomeand indicated interventions delivered to individuals already showing s of a particular risk. Some interventions operate across these levels, depending on need and risk.
Interventions may also focus on a range of ages. Those that focus on young children tend to have comparatively stronger effects, Gonzales observed, because younger children are more malleable. It is often possible to have broader impact on a range of risks with early intervention. Home visits to new mothers, deed to instill positive parent-child interactions timew the beginning, is an early intervention that has shown promise. Effects for this approach include reduced physical abuse, aggression, and harsh parenting, as well as reduced antisocial behavior a precursor to many problem behaviors in children.
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The effects are strongest for families in the greatest adversity. Research to document the long-term effects on adolescent behavior, however, has been limited. Interventions also target stages of transition across development, each of which may present not only new risks, but also new opportunities for influencing outcomes. That is, a developmental turning point may be a place where a negative trajectory is established or an opportunity for adolescents to develop new skills.
Many middle school interventions are deed around this idea, Gonzales noted.
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This is an important stage, Gonzales said, because it is when many risk behaviors are initiated and adolescents face many new challenges, including puberty and the growing importance of peer groups. The Strengthening Families intervention, for example—a universal intervention that addresses the parenting skills of individuals with children ages 10 to 14—has shown success in reducing conduct problems and affiliation with antisocial peers.
Intervening later in adolescence is more challenging because negative trajectories are often well established by then. One approach that has had success is multisystemic therapy for youth with serious behavior problems Henggeler et al. This is a very intensive individualized intervention that focuses on strengthening parenting and family relations working with families in their homes and also on removing youth from deviant peer groups, improving their school and work performance, and developing social networks.
Evaluations have shown long-term reductions in rates of criminal offending, recidivism, rearrest, and out-of-home placement. Looking across the literature, Gonzales concluded that meta-analyses and numerous randomized controlled trials have demonstrated strong empirical support for interventions deed to improve parenting and family functioning. These interventions demonstrate effects on many problem behaviors and ,ore lasting benefits in many cases for ethnically diverse families.
Evidence suggests that interventions that simultaneously address risk across contexts may be necessary, particularly at the later ages and also when implemented with youth in low-income neighborhoods and families. The relatively few economic analyses that have sfxting conducted consistently show that benefits outweigh the costs of these interventions. The influence of peers is similarly complex, as Mitchell J. Prinstein and Kenneth A.
Prinstein began by explaining that, in general, the research literature on peer influence and the interventions related to it are less mature than those on families. Two possible explanations for this association have emerged. The other is that, when an individual socializes with particular people, he gimes she tends to adopt the behaviors or traits they have. Researchers who have explored this question have largely concluded that in most cases both effects are important Dishion and Owen, ; Hall and Valente, ; Kandel, ; Popp et al.
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Researchers in mabe area have focused primarily on a few behaviors. Figure illustrates the degree of support that exists for tmies influence of peers on different problem and risk behaviors. He noted that several very important areas have received very little attention, such as weight-related behaviors and damaging behaviors, such as self-cutting.
What behaviors are influenced by peers? While the best friendship does seem to be an important influence, emerging evidence indicates that other peers also play an important role. Adolescents are quite likely to emulate the behavior of popular peers.
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They have a strong investment in social comparison and reflected appraisal and with meeting the demands of those considered the most popular in their peer group. Prinstein noted the important distinction between adolescents who are well liked and those who are identified as popular, the latter ifying those who are at the top of a dominance hierarchy. It is the dominant individuals who seem to be the most influential, particularly with regard to high-risk behaviors.
They tend to be both aggressive and more than usually prone to those behaviors. Moreover, it is rare for friendship dy to occur in isolation; more typically they occur within a friendship network or clique.
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These social patterns are very difficult to study, he added, because they evolve so rapidly. Even those who do not interact with one another within the peer crowd might feel the need to mote the attitudes or behaviors of the crowd with which they would like to associate. The influence of romantic partners has also just begun to receive attention, and Prinstein commented that researchers have not always been careful to distinguish these different sorts of peer relationships.
Further research is also needed to illuminate the ways adolescents negotiate these complex relationships—how they decide whom to heed among the many possible sources of influence. A facet of that question is that of nonconformity.
Adolescents who choose not to conform to the attitudes and behaviors of their peers are under the illusion that their behavior is therefore free of peer influence. Moore, in fact, by adopting the opposite behaviors, they are still very much cognizant of and influenced by the social norms of their peer group, although they might timse realize that their behavior is being influenced by those perceived norms.
Prinstein mentioned strong theoretical reasons to think that times of transition, such as puberty, school transitions, and certain stages of friendships, appear to be key times when peer influence is strongest. These are times when adolescents tend to be particularly sensitive to peer feedback as a source of understanding of their own identity.
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Adopting the behaviors of those with whom one would like to be friends is a strategy for seeking the relationship. Few researchers have done empirical work in this area or on the question of how peer influence works. Related to that possibility is emerging evidence that aggressive and rejected youth, who already have a range of risk factors, also seem to have a difficult time accurately estimating the behaviors of their peers. Youth who have already engaged in a particular behavior also tend to assume that they are in the majority and that others sedting engaging in similar risk behaviors.