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Programs that focus on encouraging condom or contraceptive use incorporate many of the same features but also include knowledge and attitudes related to condoms and contraceptives.
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Successful strategies include asing students to talk with their matge about specific topics. Strategies that do not work include promoting values without talking directly about sex, not giving a clear message about behavior, focusing primarily on technical knowledge, and targeting the curriculum to students who are very impulsive and are high sensation-seekers.
Kirby closed with the observation that this sort of education is not a complete solution. It reduces risk by one-third—a success rate he considers ificant, in the context of the many, many influences pushing in the other direction. Ways to bring about even more substantial changes are not yet evident. The neighborhood is an important context, Leventhal explained, because it is the place where a wide array of peer and other social interactions take place and where adolescents have access to institutional resources.
The structural characteristics of a neighborhood, including its economic status, housing quality, and the availability of resources, are important, Gorman-Smith said.
So, too, are the social processes that occur in the neighborhood context, as well as the interactions between community characteristics and other influences, such as peers, family, and schools. Researchers tend to use census units either the neighborhood, approximately 3, to 8, people, or the block, from to 3, peoplealthough, Leventhal noted, many do not define the term when they survey people about their neighborhoods.
Gorman-Smith noted that much of the research on neighborhood effects has focused not on individual development, but on the neighborhood characteristics that are associated with crime or other negative phenomena. Leventhal described some of the nonexperimental research on links between the sociodemographic character of the neighborhoods where young people live and their engagement in risk behaviors, which is of two sorts.
First are post hoc studies, in which existing data sets usually census datawhich provide demographic information, such as racial and ethnic composition and residential instability for a particular point in time, are linked with more detailed information about particular families or individuals who lived in the neighborhood at the time for which data are available.
Alternatively, a priori studies are deed to collect data that sample a wide range of neighborhoods or certain types of neighborhoods. One example is the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, 8 which combined data on children and families with community survey data, interviews with residents, and observations.
Looking across these sorts of studies, Leventhal noted that even with controls for child and family background characteristics and other factors, there is ificant evidence for a connection between socioeconomic status and risk behavior. Pive in a neighborhood with low socioeconomic status confers risks to adolescents in terms of a host of behavioral, social, and emotional problems. Living in a poor neighborhood also places adolescents at risk for early childbearing and related sexual risk behaviors.
In short, there is something about living in a poor neighborhood that places adolescents at risk for engaging in a wide johnnson of risk behaviors. Leventhal cautioned that because neighborhood residence is not random, the same characteristics may lead families to particular neighborhoods as well as predispose their children to particular outcomes.
Moreover, she stressed that neighborhood influences johndon modest compared with the influence of parent income, parent education, and other family influences. Researchers have also employed experimental des to try to address the selection problems with nonexperimental studies.
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Studies of residential mobility, Leventhal explained, provide the opportunity to observe outcomes for families who are randomly ased either to receive support in moving to a lower poverty neighborhood or not, although they do not specifically target adolescent risk behaviors. Yet studies of longer term effects were more mixed, showing, for example, that although boys who moved out were less likely to be arrested or oive for drug offenses than those who stayed, girls who moved were ljve likely to be convicted of criminal offenses than their peers who stayed.
Another example is the Moving to Opportunity program, 10 in which 4, families were randomly ased either to receive a housing voucher that would support them in moving to private housing in a low-poverty urban not suburban, as in the Gautreaux program neighborhood or not there was also a third group that received somewhat different benefits. This study also showed somewhat mixedwith ificantly more positive effects for girls than for boys, as well as a of areas in which there were no effects, positive or negative delinquency, sexual behaviors, achievement, and physical health.
Leventhal explored the theoretical frameworks that might explain the influence of neighborhoods. First, she suggested, it is likely that neighborhood structure could have both direct and indirect effects on adolescent risk behavior, but it is also likely that there are specific intermediary mechanisms, such as social processes. Thus, one model for linking neighborhood mahre to adolescent outcomes is the institutional resources model, or the hypothesis johhson young people are influenced by the quality, quantity, diversity, and affordability of neighborhood resources fwre.
The third model focuses on the relationships and ties in the cchat and highlights the role of families. This model suggests that neighborhood disadvantage contributes to family stress and economic hardship, which, in turn, can have negative consequences on parental well-being, parenting, and adolescent outcomes. Gorman-Smith also touched on theoretical issues, identifying four similar mechanisms through which community influences young people: social connection and support, social norms, informal social control, and routine activities.
She noted that although there is reason to think that the social organization of a neighborhood is important, jonson census-level data are not an ideal tool for investigating this complex construct. She showed data from several small studies of neighborhood social organizations showing that concentrated disadvantage and the social organization of neighborhoods are only mildly correlated Gorman-Smith and Reardon, That is, neighborhoods with comparable poverty levels had very different levels of social organization, and those with less poverty did not necessarily have better social organization than those with more poverty.
The important question not easily answered, she suggested, is how some neighborhoods develop social supports johndon others do not. Like Leventhal, Gorman-Smith has found that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood may be associated with many poor outcomes for youth, including delinquency, violence, substance use, lower academic achievement, problems with social competence, and mental health problems. The association with violence may be the most studied of these links, she suggested, but the research has not clearly illuminated the reasons chst some young people are affected so much more seriously than others.
Although some data suggest that different aspects of neighborhoods have independent effects, it seems likely that mtre effects interact, ssx situation that presents a difficult research challenge. Emerging research suggests a role for social and recreational resources in the link between low socioeconomic neighborhood fre and adolescent risk behaviors.
Leventhal explained, however, that the evidence for the relationship-and-ties model is much more mixed.
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The most compelling evidence currently available is for the social norms and collective efficacy model. These factors seem to play a strong role in the link between neighborhood poverty and adolescent delinquency and sexual risk behavior. The wex of that evidence, she suggested, highlights the value of community-level supervision and monitoring of youth. Gorman-Smith also discussed interventions, noting that there have been three primary approaches to keeping communities intact as opposed to changing their demographic composition.
One is to work with individuals and families to manage or cope with the stresses of living in a disadvantaged neighborhood.
A third approach is to focus on economic development to improve neighborhood conditions, for example, through business development. Although research on neighborhood effects on adolescent development has produced mixedit may be due to the limited nature of this research to date. Most of the research has focused on census data to define disadvantage and poverty, but this may be too limiting a conceptualization of neighborhood.
More attention to iohnson other than information found katre census data may be necessary to more fully understand how neighborhood context may influence johnon development. These data may include information about crime, community businesses and organizations, social factors such as perceptions johneon fear, or adult monitoring. In addition, Leventhal noted, it may be necessary to examine mediating factors that may help explain neighborhood effects and moderating effects that neighborhoods may have to either exacerbate the negative effects of other risks or enhance the positive effects of adolescent assets and resources.
Most of the research to date has focused on the direct or main effects of neighborhoods. Any list of the sorts of devices and programming to which young people may have access is likely to be at least somewhat outdated within months, but researchers have begun actively exploring both the effects of media on adolescent behavior and ways of mafre both their interactions with it and interventions deed to address media-related problems, as Michael Rich, Jane D.
Brown, and Blair Johnson explained.
He presented some data on media use and its effects, cautioning that the field has not been well funded and that much of the data are cross-sectional and based on self-reports. He focused on data from the Center on Media and Child Health related to the links between media consumption and adolescent sexuality. Chhat average, 8- to year-olds use media actively for 6 hours and 21 minutes of every day, often using multiple media at the same time Roberts et al.
Because nearly a quarter of teenagers use two or more media at the same time, they may be cumulatively exposed joynson more than 8. During the — television season, 71 percent of programs included sexual content, with an average of 6. Among programs directed mtare teenagers, 82 percent included sexual talk and two-thirds included sexual behavior 4 percent portrayed sexual intercourse Farrar et al.
In a survey, 75 percent of college students reported that they were first exposed to sex in the media when they were minors, and 15 percent had persistent imagery and thoughts related to that exposure. Inmore than two-thirds of movies released that year portrayed sexual behavior, and Rich indicated that the percentage has increased each year since Cantor et al. Internet access, now widely promoted even for very young children through toy-related game websites deed chay part of product promotion campaigns and the like, has introduced a new source of influence with complex implications.
Inthere were matrf million Internet users under the age of 18, and 47 percent of 8- to year-olds went online every day Roberts et al. Average use was 1 hour per day, although some reported being online as long chqt 10 to 14 hours per day.
And 42 percent had clicked on pornographic sites; 4 percent had been asked for sexual pictures of themselves by someone they did not know Wolak et al. Rich cautioned that all of these figures have probably grown since While sexual predation by adults is actually quite rare, other kinds of influence may also cause concern. Rich described weblogs created by teens who have chosen anorexia nervosa and bulimia as a lifestyle and post tips for others who would like to adopt it to live life as an extremely thin person.
Social isolation related to social networking usage, cyber bullying, and sexting sending sexual images or text via cell phone are all new problems for adults to understand and address. Text and images transmitted electronically may in some cases be impossible to expunge, and because the legal code related to the Internet is in its infancy, young people may face serious lasting consequences from a single impulsive act.
A total of 70 percent of adolescents have been exposed to pornography on the Internet, and two-thirds of college students report that they consider doing so acceptable Rideout et al. What are the effects of this exposure?
A of studies, Rich indicated, have shown that the more sexual content young people have seen on television, the more likely they are to initiate sexual activity Collins johnosn al. As one example, in one study, to year-olds exposed to sexuality in television, movies, music, and magazines were more than twice as likely than those not exposed to have sex by age 16 Brown et al. Another study showed that 6- to 8-year-olds who watched adult programming were ificantly more likely than those who did not to engage in sex by ages 12 to 14 Delgado et al.
Another showed that youth whose parents limited television to less than 2 hours per day had half the rate of sexual initiation as those whose parents spoke to their children about not having sex but did not limit their viewing Ashby et al. Theoretical Perspectives Researchers with several theoretical perspectives have examined possible links between media exposure and changes in sexual attitudes and chwt, Rich observed. Social learning theory, which has also been applied in the study of media violence, suggests that when individuals see a behavior portrayed in a positive way, they have a tendency to imitate and adopt it.
Cultivation theory suggests a slightly different explanation, that what individuals see on television supersedes their own perceptions of the real world around them.
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Thus, if the social norm on television is extremely prevalent sexuality, individuals who watch the programming begin to think that it is the social norm and believe sexuality is more prevalent than it actually is. A third theoretical model posits that adolescents use media as part of their individuation process. They use their preferences for programming or music to convey messages about their social identity, in esx same way that their choices of clothing and peer groups do.
Rich sees media use as so pervasive as cgat be both a public health and environmental health issue. They are neutral. They are not malignant.
The science of adolescent risk-taking: workshop report.
They are not bad. But they are very powerful. Johnson focused on the value of applying contemporary persuasion theory to the use of media strategies to influence adolescent behavior.
He acknowledged that researchers have not fully explored this approach, so his discussion was largely theoretical. Researchers have posited at least five different current persuasion theories, he explained, although they converge on several ificant points. That is, when the recipient of a message is highly motivated to expend effort processing it and is well able to grasp the content, there is the potential for the information to alter attitudes, liev the content of the message makes a ificant difference in the outcome.
However, for a recipient whose motivation and ability are low and who is thinking in a relatively shallow fashion, it is the incidental features in which the message is enveloped that may matter more. Thus, for example, marketers tend to rely heavily ciyy peripheral cues that require very little attention to process in developing advertisements. These advertisements succeed because they are ferw over and over, so the message can be imprinted without any effort on the part of the recipient.
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Johnson pointed out that children and adolescents are most likely to process in a shallow way and to be receptive to peripheral cues, such as strategies that invoke emotional responses. Several other factors are likely to affect the way individuals process information, and these change in the course of development. Strong attitudes or habits likely to become more entrenched with ageskepticism which increases with educationand links to peer groups whose attitudes and behavior may be in opposition to a message all tend to make individuals more resistant to messages that seem discrepant in some way.