Environmental stress, potential protective factors, and adolescent risk-taking

Alice Anne Scharf, Fordham University

Abstract

Recent research has examined the impact of various risk and protective factors on adolescent risk-taking behaviors; however these studies have been narrowly focused and often included aggregated indices measuring involvement in several behaviors. The present study examined contributions of life event stress and daily hassles as risk factors and religiosity and attitudinal intolerance for deviance as protective factors for five separate behaviors including: adolescent alcohol use, marijuana use, delinquent behaviors, risky sexual behaviors, and the potential for dropping out of school. Participants included 201 urban and mostly minority high school students from all four grades. Results from simultaneous regression analyses demonstrated the following eight significant interactions: life events and attitudinal intolerance for deviance, daily hassles and attitudinal intolerance for deviance, and life events and extrinsic religiosity for alcohol use; life events and extrinsic religiosity and life events and intrinsic religiosity for marijuana use; life events and attitudinal intolerance for deviance, daily hassles and attitudinal intolerance for deviance, and life events and extrinsic religiosity for delinquent behaviors; and life events and extrinsic religiosity for the potential for dropping out of school. Only main effects were found to be significant for levels of risky sexual behaviors. Being male significantly predicted higher levels of delinquent behaviors and risky sexual behaviors. All other demographics inconsistently predicted levels of risk-taking behaviors. For males, significant interactions were found for alcohol use and delinquent behaviors. And for females, significant interactions included life event stress with extrinsic religiosity and life event stress with intrinsic religiosity for alcohol use. Results indicate that levels of religiosity and attitudinal intolerance for deviance generally had moderating effects for adolescents experiencing high levels of life events or daily hassles. Contributions of both stressors to higher levels of all five risk-taking behaviors suggest that involvement in these behaviors may be maladaptive ways to cope with stress. High levels of protective factors appear to guard adolescents against involvement in substance use, delinquency, and the potential for dropping out of school. Adolescents facing high levels of stress who have low levels of protective factors are at particular risk for engagement in risk-taking behaviors in response to stress. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Alice Anne Scharf, "Environmental stress, potential protective factors, and adolescent risk-taking" (January 1, 1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9903714.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9903714

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