Adolescent Risk Taking Michael Denver

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Nursing 203March 17, 2008This paper will discuss several areas of adolescent risk taking behaviour and environmental factors that increase the prevalence of risk taking. It will also include some current statistics related to adolescent risky behaviour.Risk taking is inherently linked with teenage behaviour. Risky behaviour is common for this age group, because the adolescent is striving to develop autonomy from authority figures and to develop significant relationships with peers (American Nurses Association, 2003, p. 10). The types of risk taking behaviour that adolescents participate in include: drug and alcohol use, tobacco use, motor vehicle injuries, self-inflicted injuries, risky sexual activities and homelessness. There is a relatively high prevalence of most of these manifestations in Canada warranting a thorough study of this type of behaviour in adolescents. For example, the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) found that in 2002, girls between the grades of 6 and 10 increased their weekly alcohol consumption from 3% to 23% and boys in the same grades increased their weekly use from 6% to 34% [Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 2005]. Regarding substance abuse, the CCHS found that 31% of males and females aged 12 to 17, claimed to have tried marijuana in 2000-2001; 13% had tried other illicit drugs (such as, cocaine or crack)" (CIHI, 2005). In the U.S.A., illegal drug use among adolescents more than doubled from 5.3% to 11.4% from 1992 to 1997 (Oman & al., 2005, p.1425). A 2005 study conducted in Thunder Bay by the Superior Points Harm Reduction Program (SPHRP) found that of the street-involved or at-risk youth surveyed, aged 24 and under, over 98% of them had used drugs over the previous 12 months (DeProphetis et al., 2006, p. 44). Of that same group, over 30% were injection drug users and over 38% of those who do not inject drugs know someone who does (DeProphetis et al., p. 44). These are indeed alarming figures, since the youth abusing substances like this are the mothers and fathers of tomorrow, and will have a major impact upon their future children's development and sense of identity.

Another aspect of risk behaviour is represented by motor vehicle injuries. For example, teenagers aged 15 - 19 are the leading age group hospitalized for snowmobile and all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) related injuries between 2004 and 2005 (CIHI, 2005). One striking feature is that the prevalence of injury distribution is much higher among males than among females for all age groups (CIHI). Rates of self-inflicted injuries or suicide attempts show a similar sex difference. While males aged 15 to 19 years were more likely to succeed in their suicide attempts, the hospitalization rates for suicide attempts were more than two times higher among females aged 15 to 19 years (CIHI). This correlates well with adolescents' mental health problems and depression. In 2002, 21% of boys in grade 6 and 25% of boys in grade10, reported that they felt low at least weekly in the previous six months; 23% of girls in grade 6 and 36% of girls in grade 10, reported feeling low at least weekly in the previous six months (CIHI).

A different facet of this complex problem is risky sexual behaviour. The emphasis upon educating teenagers in regards to sex and safe sex practices may have led to a decrease of sexual acts performed by this age group. Between 1989 and 2002, there was a decrease in the proportion of youth in grades 9 to 11 reporting having sex (CIHI, 2005). In addition, between 1997 and 2001, the pregnancy rates among girls aged 15 to 19 years declined from 43 to 36 per 1000 girls (CIHI). These bright spots are overshadowed by rising rates of chlamydia infection among adolescents aged 15 to 19 between 1991 and 2001 (CIHI). The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) reports that girls with a weak self-concept are more likely to have had sexual intercourse by age 14 - 15 than those with a strong...
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