Friday, July 13, 2007
This presentation is part of : Children's Mental Health
Adolescents at Risk for Problem Behaviors
Robin Bartlett, PhD, RN, BC and Raymond Buck, PhD. School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA
Learning Objective #1: identify four clusters of problem behaviors in adolescents.
Learning Objective #2: examine selected risk and protective factors for problem behaviors in adolescents.

Background: Problem behaviors in adolescents can result in serious consequences for adolescents, their families, schools and communities. While many adolescents develop problem behaviors, not all do. One explanation is that children possess or are exposed to risk and protective factors, i.e., influences that help them to manifest and/or avoid problem behaviors. Purpose: This study was designed to further our understanding of which adolescents are at risk for which problem behaviors and to aid in identification of related risk and protective factors. Method: Data on 24 adolescent-reported problem behaviors (e.g., lying, marijuana use, multiple sex partners) collected at two time points from 11,922 adolescents in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were clustered using k-means and Ward’s clustering techniques. Differences between clusters due to demographics, the risk factors of low self-esteem and AD/HD and/or other learning problems, and the protective factors of maternal support, paternal support, and number of friends were examined using multinomial logistic regression. Findings: Four clusters of adolescents were identified: a normal behaviors cluster who reported few, if any problem behaviors, a cluster who reported few problem behaviors except those related to risky sexual behaviors, and two clusters that reported engaging in most of the problem behaviors; the primary distinction between these last two clusters was whether they also engaged in risky sexual behaviors. The clusters differed significantly by race, age, SES, self-esteem, maternal support, paternal support and number of friends at both time points. Self-esteem and parental support seemed to be particularly important in protecting some adolescents from developing problem behaviors. Conclusions: Promoting self-esteem is an intervention that, for some adolescents, may help prevent problem behaviors. Helping parents learn how to parent their child is another fruitful area for intervention. Supported by: New Faculty Grant, University of North Carolina at Greensboro