The American Journal of Public Health suggest that “risky behavior such as, tobacco use, alcohol and drug abuse, unsafe driving practices, violent behavior, including attempting suicide, unprotected sex, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise, threaten the healthy development of youth into productive adults” (AJPH, 2001 p. 508).
Social Psychology examines the psychology concerned with the way an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior are influenced by others (Weiten, 2010). Adolescents today are faced with many challenges. From a social psychology standpoint there are many factors that contribute to the development to risky behavior in adolescents.
Some factors include, but are not limited to, lack of parental involvement or caring adult, poor academic achievement and easy access to illegal possessions such as drugs, guns or alcohol (AJPH, 2001).
Based on this information it is easy to recognize that the key factor for risky adolescent behavior starts in the home. Adolescents model what they see and are left to steer themselves when they have no guidance. With teens left to their own devices, it is easy to see why they are desperate for attention and are craving to feel a sense of belonging or a sense of escape.
Without support of caring adults at home, it is more important than ever, that programs are created to target our at risk youth. It is also important to point out that risky behavior is affected by core social institutions such as education, administration of justice, and economic opportunities (AJPH, 2001).
The Universities of Minnesota and North Carolina recently did a study on protective characteristics associated with family, school, and individual factors and how it affected adolescents risky behavior. The study found that adolescence who felt a strong sense of closeness to their parents and to their school; adolescence who expressed that religion and prayer were important to them; and adolescence whose parents who put high expectations on them for academic success had a lesser chance of becoming involved in risky behavior (Brown, 1998).
From a social psychological perspective we can see that adolescent’s risky behavior can be caused by a variety of factors and influences in their lives. It is our job as a society to come up with solutions that will decrease the probability of risky adolescent behavior.
Promoting programs that focus on academic success or teaching adolescents the importance of developing positive relationships with not only peers, but adults is a step in the right direction towards prevention. Intervention is also a key aspect in developing healthy behavior in adolescents. It is important to encourage family involvement in the community and provide the resources necessary to help them attain the service that they need (AJPH, 2001).
There is much truth in the old cliche’ ” it takes a village to raise a child”. Although in a perfect world it would be ideal for the child to gain all the security, sense of belongingness and the motivation for success at home, it is increasingly clear in today’s society that programs are needed in our social institutions to engage the adolescents that are at greatest risk.
(1998). Family, school connectedness influence teen health behaviors. DATA: The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory & Application, 17(3), 7. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
(2001). 200027: Encourage Healthy Behavior in Adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 91(3), 508-510. Retrieved May 1, 2010 from Academic Search Complete database.
Weiten, W. (2008). Psychology: Themes and variations, briefer version (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning, Inc.