Social influences on health-risk behaviors among minority middle school students.J Adolesc Health. 2001 Jun; 28(6):474-80.JA
To determine whether parent social influences are associated with health-risk behaviors more than peer social influences among young minority adolescents.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey of seventh-grade students in a public urban magnet middle school using a survey instrument adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The sample consisted of all seventh-grade students in the school, and the survey was part of a needs assessment for a school-based health education program. We measured four health-risk behaviors: use of (a) tobacco, (b) alcohol, (c) onset of sexual activity, and (d) marijuana use; and five social influences: (a) parent disapproval of health-risk behaviors, (b) parent modeling of health-risk behaviors, (c) parent monitoring of health-risks, (d) peer disapproval of health risks, and (e) peer modeling of health-risk behaviors. The analyses included measures of the prevalence of health-risk behaviors, bivariate analyses to evaluate relationships between health-risk behaviors and social influences, and regressions analyses to determine the independent associations of the social influences with the four health-risk behaviors.
Twenty percent of respondents reported using tobacco, over 50% used alcohol in the past year, 13.3% were sexually active, and 12% reported marijuana use. Parent influences were associated with differences in alcohol use, whereas peer influences were associated with differences in all measured health-risk behaviors: tobacco and alcohol use, sexual activity, and marijuana use. Regression analyses demonstrated that peer social influences were the only measures independently associated with abstinence from tobacco (p < .05), alcohol (p < .01), sexual activity (p < .05), and marijuana use (p < .05). In all analyses, peers emerged as the most consistent social influence on health-risk behavior.
This study suggests peers and peer group behavior may be better predictors of adolescent health-risk behaviors than parental social influences among young adolescents.