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Teen Risk Behavior and the Factors Associated With Increased and Decreased Risk

December 29, 2000

Protecting Teens: Beyond Race, Income, and Family Structure and a companion article in the American Journal of Public Health examines the unique and combined contributions of race/ethnicity, income, and family structure to adolescent cigarette smoking, alcohol use, involvement with violence, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and sexual intercourse.

The article is based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health), a comprehensive school-based study of the health-related behaviors of adolescents in the United States.

Data was collected from a nationally representative survey of 10,803 White, Black, and Hispanic youth in grades 7 through 12 who participated in in-home interviews between April and August of 1996.


Sexual Intercourse

Demographic Analyses

Cigarette Smoking

Demographic Analyses

Alcohol Use

Demographic Analyses

Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts

Demographic Analyses

Analyses within each racial/ethnic group suggest that there was an association between income and first sexual debut. The study found that as income rose the rate of sexual intercourse declined. Further, the current findings suggest consistently higher use of both cigarettes and alcohol among teens from single-parent families. However, living in single-parent households was not a risk factor for alcohol use among Hispanic youth. Although concerns over suicide among both Hispanic and Black youths is rising, rates of suicide were significantly higher among While males than for other groups of adolescents.

In conclusion, some adolescent health risk behaviors appear disproportionately high among youth of color, lower-income adolescents, and those living in poverty. These demographic factors are not however, always good predictors of youth risk behavior. The authors note that people developing risk-reduction programs must look at the neighborhood, family, school, and both peer characteristics to truly understand the dynamics that contribute to specific risk behaviors.

For more information:

Protecting Teens: Beyond Race, Income, and Family Structure
Center for Adolescent Health
University of Minnesota
200 Oak Street S.E., Suite 260
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: 612/626-2820
Fax: 612/626-2134
Web site:

R. W. Blum et al., "The Effects of Race/Ethnicity, Income and Family Structure on Adolescent Risk Behaviors," American Journal of Public Health, 90(12); pp. 1879-84.


Resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation's (KFF) Capitol Hill Briefing Series on HIV/AIDS. In recent months KFF sponsored a briefing series designed to provide Congressional staff with up-to-date information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and an opportunity for the interchange of ideas with experts in the field. Based on the information in these briefings, KFF developed a series of fact sheets and issue briefs that are now available to the pubic.

New resources include:

For more information:

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2400 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025; Phone: 650/854-9400; Fax: 650/854-4800; Web site: or contact their Publication Request Line: 800/656-4533.

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. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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