Risk behaviours and teen health
Risk Behaviors and Health of Teenagers
In SELS, we conduct a wide range of studies of emotional well-being and risk behaviours in teenagers. We study smoking, drinking, depression, aggression and social anxiety of teenagers from different socio-demographic backgrounds and educational environments. In particular, we are interested in finding out: what kinds of teenagers get into high-risk groups? Is there any kind of social “infection" which leads to the spread of harmful physical and mental health practices? How are risk behaviours and psychological well-being connected to academic performance and themotivation of students of different years?
Depression, Aggression, and Social Anxiety
Within the framework of a longitudinal study of students from four colleges of St. Petersburg, we have collected data on the psychological health of teenagers. We measured the level of depression, aggressiveness, and social anxiety of every teenager over the three years of the study. For assessing their psychological state, we used questionnaires that were specifically designed for teenagers: CES-Depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies,) a questionnaire by P. Orpinas for measuring aggression, and a questionnaire by M. Gren-Lundell for measuring social anxiety. The questions were translated and adapted for Russian-speaking students, and pretested by the SESL staff.
Drinking and Extracurricular Activities of High School Students
A survey for this research was conducted in 2012 in several towns and settlements of the Russian Federation, within the framework of the project “Extra-Curricular Activities of High School Students". In this survey, we collected the data on alcohol consumption by students of the 9th grade from Tomsk and two settlements in the Tomsk region. Frequency of consumption and the drink strength were the two parameters used for measuring practices in alcohol consumption. The study has posed the questions: how are various kinds of extracurricular activities connected with alcoholic behaviour, and might the extracurricular activities of students be a defence mechanism in their protection from alcohol abuse in adolescence?
Vocational Education and Alcoholic Behaviour of Teenagers in Technical Colleges
The purpose of this branch of research was to study the connection between the educational environment in colleges, on the one hand, and the academic performance of students, their career plans, and their risk behaviours on the other. The ability of institutions to create an environment which would involve teenagers in vocational training and support their willingness to learn, may become a factor in preventing alcohol abuse in adolescence. For the project "Vocational Education of Blue-Collar Workers”, we have conducted a survey of 1st year students and students of the graduate year in 30 SVE technical educational institutions of St. Petersburg. The obtained data has allowed us to compare the educational motives, socio-psychological characteristics, professional plans and drinking practices of two age groups: students of 16-17 and 18-19 years old. The questionnaire included blocks of questions to assess the frequency of consumption of different kinds of alcohol (spirits, wine, beer, canned cocktails). In addition, we asked how frequently students experienced alcohol intoxication. Our comparison of the results obtained from these two age brackets has shown that frequency of alcohol consumption increases with age.
The Dynamics of Adolescent Alcohol Abuse and the Impact of Immediate Environment
In regards to the dynamics of risk behaviours, in 2013 we began a longitudinal study in which the behaviour of the same teenagers was tracked over the whole period of their study in a vocational college (from 15 to 18 years.) For this study, 4 colleges were selected with different gender compositions: one was predominantly male, one mixed, and two of them were female-dominated. The survey involved 700 students (aged 15 at the start of the study,) who graduated from the 9th grade of secondary school. Over their college period, we conducted 4 to 5 survey waves.
This research project is aimed at studying the effect of friendships on the distribution of risk behaviours among students of colleges and technical schools of St. Petersburg. We examined relations between teenagers in colleges and technical schools (social friendship networks,) and their consumption of alcoholic beverages during their entire time in the college/school (from 2 to 3 years). Social connections are considered to be “contamination pathways”, which facilitate the distribution of risk behaviours and practices of alcohol consumption. The results of this network modelling conducted on longitudinal data have shown that, contrary to smoking, (which contributes to promoting friendly relations but is not "contagious,") the practices of alcohol consumption don’t help to establish social connections, although they are "contagious" in close-knit groups. Teenagers yield to peer pressure and adopt their practices of alcohol consumption.
Attitudes of Teenagers towards Practices of Alcohol Consumption and the Associated Risks
In the Spring of 2015, we launched a project aimed at identifying the attitudes of adolescents (students of technical schools) towards a range of behavioural, emotional and social consequences pertaining to alcohol consumed by themselves and their peers. The questionnaire consists of open-ended questions which are designed to assess the positive and negative effects of alcohol intoxication, emotions from consuming alcohol, and the factors that prevent (or attract) the teenagers towards drinking alcohol beverages.
As a result of this project, we will construct a statistical model which will allow us to predict the alcoholic behaviour of a teenager (frequency of alcohol consumption) based on their assessment of the effects of drinking. In addition, we will use these results to develop scientifically sound interventions aimed at the regulation of teenager risk behaviours, and at reducing alcohol consumption in particular. The results of our research can be used to conduct an independent assessment of the quality of education and to improve the performance indices of SVE educational institutions. They can also be used in development of managerial decisions and proposals for promoting cooperation between industrial organizations of St. Petersburg and SVE educational institutions.
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