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Adult Mentor Relationships May Help Reduce High-Risk Behaviors Among Teens

June 9, 2000

A study in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that teens with adult mentors are less likely to participate in high-risk behaviors.

Researchers surveyed 294 youth between the ages of 12 and 23 who were patients at a community-based teaching hospital in suburban New Jersey between August 1995 and March 1996.

Researchers looked at five major categories of risk behaviors including tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use, violence, and sexual intercourse. Participants were asked about the onset, duration, and intensity of each risk behavior. Multivariate analyses were used to compare the relationship between risk behaviors and mentoring.

Results

Teen Relationships with Adult Mentors

  • 68% of respondents reported having a mentor, defined as an adult in their life to whom they can usually turn to for help and advice, 23% reported not having a mentor, and 9% did not answer the question.
  • When asked to name their adult mentor, respondents made a variety of responses, including: 51% their mother, 18% an adult friend, 5% their father, 5% their sister, 3% a teacher, and less than 1% their physician.

High-Risk Behaviors

  • 26% of respondents reported having had sexual intercourse with more than 1 partner in the 6 months prior to the study.
  • 23% of respondents reported that they smoked 5 or more cigarettes per day at the time of the study.
  • 22% of respondents reported having used illicit drugs in the 30 days prior to the study.
  • 15% of respondents reported having had 3 or more alcoholic beverages in the 30 days prior to the study.

Association Between High-Risk Behaviors and Adult Mentorship

  • Respondents who reported having a mentor were significantly less likely to have had sexual intercourse with more than 1 partner in the 6 months prior to the study, to have used illicit drugs in the 30 days prior to the study, to have smoked 5 or more cigarettes per day at the time of the study, or to have ever carried a weapon.
  • Alcohol use in the 30 days prior to the study was the one risk behavior that was not significantly associated with having a mentor.

Researchers assessed the impact of mentors and found that adolescents with a mentor (both parent and non-parent) were less likely to be at higher risk, defined as participating in two or more of the risk behaviors.

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In order to assess whether parent mentors played a different role in preventing risk behaviors than non-parent mentors, researchers examined data from a subset of higher risk adolescents. They concluded that connectiveness to a trusted adult, regardless of whether it is a parent, makes a positive contribution to the life, development, and behaviors of an adolescent.

The authors conclude that health care providers need to inform parents, both mothers and fathers, about the vital role they can play as a mentor to their teens. They note that only 1% of teens in this study named their physician as the person they can usually turn to for help and advice. The authors suggest that health care providers need to let teens know that they are approachable.

The authors also stress that the utilization of adult mentors should be supported as a key strategy in working with adolescents to decrease certain risk behaviors and their consequent morbidity and mortality.

For more information:
S. R. Beier, et.al., "The Potential Role of an Adult Mentor in Influencing High-Risk Behaviors in Adolescents,"
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, April 2000, vol. 154, no. 4, pp. 327-331.


Resources

Population Reports: Oral Contraceptives-An Update is a new resource available from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. This indepth report examines oral contraceptives on the 40th anniversary of their introduction.

Since then, oral contraceptives have satisfied women's need for convenient, safe, and reliable contraception and are now one of the most widely used contraceptive methods in the world.

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For more information:

Stephen Goldstein
Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs
111 Market Place, Suite 310
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410/659-6300
Fax: 410/659-6299
Web site: http://www.jhuccp.org
E-mail: PopRepts@jhuccp.org



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
See Also
More Statistics on Young People and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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