Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Risky Business: Teens and Health

Research shows that adolescents who engage in one form of risky behavior, like drug or alcohol use, are likely to engage in other risky behaviors like having unprotected sex, engaging in self-harm and/or acting out in dangerous ways.

Now, a new study shows that a simple and brief screening measure called the Adolescent Risk Inventory (ARI) can quickly identify the broad range of risk behaviors found among adolescents. This study appeared in The Journal of Child Psychiatry and Human Development

I was not a risk taker as a child or a teen. I was always the designated driver as a young adult as I disliked drugs and alcohol. Even now, nearing fifty, I am quite vanilla. Perhaps the riskiest thing I ever did was to go to McDonald's in a gown on a dare.

People have temperments and genetic variations that sway the trajectory of their life.

How would you describe yourself?



Miranda said...

Good at You, You rebel for going to McDonalds in a gown.

I would say I think I was a bit of a rebel, but over all a pretty good kid. I tended to give into peer pressure, but as I did, I was always thinking omg I have to be home by curfew, or omg what would my parents think?

Yeah ....and now look at me...Im still doing that. lol

Godwhacker said...

Oh, this is an easy one for me...

As a child, I had very low self-esteem and struggled with depression, drug use and was always into something dangerous. I have to cut myself some slack though. Being a gay teenager with homophobic parents in the 1980's was not an easy road. It is certainly nothing I would ever wish on another person.

I have taken every drug imaginable and lived out every sexual fantasy, only to find true happiness in a lifestyle based in monogamy and (relative) abstinence.

It was an amazing journey, one that I'm lucky to have survived and would never want to repeat.

Layla (aka Barbara) said...

Very good topic! My son is a teen and has been in trouble once already, but I don't see him as a risk taker.

I am no longer a risk taker, but as a teenage/young adult I did it all - and am grateful that I did not die, kill someone else while driving under the influence, get an STD. But I did suffer some consequences. Its hard for me to believe I was so careless back then - but I just did NOT care. Now I won't even drive after one glass of wine!

Ms.L said...

I'm kind of middle of the road.
I like to take risks but have learned that some risks are just not worth it in the long run.
I had my wild moments as a teen but even at that I was pretty responsible. There was stuff I would not do,no matter what.
I was my own parent:)
As I get older,I crave risk and excitement but in pretty mild ways,lol. Packing up and moving to the place of my dreams even when so many people tell me I shouldn't,going on vacations tp places out of my confort zone,caving,surfing little waves...that sort of thing!

jumpinginpuddles said...

we have done mostly everything, but one question still remains how much of that is you psyche and how much is your rebelling against something else not necessarily yourself.
We rebelled for various reasons because of the strict appalling place we had grown up in, the screaming to be taken out of it and thus attention seeking behaviour. I think there are many reasons teens rebel and i think it will be interesting to see which way our children go as we now have an eleven year old.

Ian Lidster said...

I engaged in more risky behavior when I was younger than I do now -- hey, past a certain age you become aware of mortality. But, in terms of addiction we find that once kids give themselves permission at an early age, such as smoking or drinking, they will be more inclined to move i into drugs, unprotected sex, etc.
I wasn't a monk, but certain indulgences, like street drugs, always scared me. I'm glad they did.
Interesting post, as always. I need my shots of Dr. Deb to get me thinking.


Todd and in Charge said...

I must admit I didn't do enough in helping godwhacker deal with these issues. I deeply regret that, among other things.

I also had plenty of issues of my own.

BTW, is that test available for download anywhere?

Lynn said...

I can tell you, as I was a risk taking teen who had many friends who were like me, that teens who display disturbing behaviour are probably not doing so due to an inborn temperament or genetic predisposition. Children and teens who act out in this manner are doing so because they are in pain or trying to avoid pain. It is often due to some sort of abuse, neglect, bullying, or family dysfunction.

Shannon A. Long said...

I was always pretty vanilla too. I was too busy with piano or honors club to get into anything risky. (oh, the shame) I would absolutely classify myself as a nerd.

Moof said...

As a young person, I was definitely a risk taker ... now, I'm not. Or ... maybe I'm kidding myself. *LOL*

At any rate, I don't do many "risky" things anymore ... beyond sneak a bit of salt onto my plate, or stay up too late ,or drive without a seat-b ... hmmmm, maybe I am still a bit of risk taker after all! ;o)

B said...

I was the biggest dork when it comes to taking risks. I needed my parents approval so I didn't do ANYTHING wrong. Never drank, smoked, did drugs, had sex...nothing. I don't regret not taking risks now but I think not taking them when I was younger has effected my ability to take them now. It scares me too much - and I think that's a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I'll say I was middle of the road. I tried some things, stayed clear of others. Made up my own mind about smoking, drugs and alcohol (which was to abstain). I was the promiscuous teen/young adult but that likely was a result of low self-esteem and needing to fill a void or have validation of my attractibility, but otherwise, would be classified as mature, trustworthy and responsible. Always older than my years.

HP said...

Ms. Mundane, that's me. Never been a risk-taker, as a teen no smoking, no cigarettes, no drugs, no sex, no alcohol. Quite boring!!

alan said...

Many more risks than I should have taken; nor did I give some of them up as soon as I wish I had!


Raine said...

I would have trouble to find a risk I havent taken. It started my freshman year of high school and has continued on into adulthood and tho I have gotten control of it every once in a while I still slip up. But then again I am bi-polar. So there you go.

S'onnie said...

If you were to ask my mother she would say I was an extreme risk taker but actually I wasn't. My mother. I don't drink much, I don't do drugs. I don't really enjoy parties that much. I smoked a little but my mother never knew about it. I was pretty respectful to my parents.

OHN said...

I think Ian hit it on the head. Mortality doesn't seem real when you are young. It wasn't till I had children that I really "got it" because I couldn't imagine my life w/o them or them w/o me.

I always wanted to be a risk taker, they seemed so confident and funloving. I never really felt comfortable hanging with the wild crowd. Coming from a single parent house, I was always afraid I would hurt or disappoint my mom. The few risks I did take she never found out about :)

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Miranda,
You made me lol!

Dear GW,
You are a miracle survivor. So glad you are here to offer your wit and wisdom. And so glad you have found your way.

Dear Layla,
Yea...good for you!

Dear Ms. L.
Amazing how life teaches us things that youth can't.

That can be true for some. Good point, smarty pants.

Dear Ian,
I'm a cerebral risk taker, I guess....challening myself with learning, writing, teaching, etc. I think a certain amount of "fear" or "apprehension" is a good thing. Most extreme risk takers don't feel such things.

Dear TAIC,
You and GW are related? I didn't know that.

Dear Lynn,
Yes that is a good point similar to JIP. But certain temperment do set the arc for expression. For example, someone who is in pain and is a passive or shy person may be more "internal" or introverted with their risk taking, and someone with a more extroverted temperment my choose more overt risk taking behaviors. Stuff like that....

Dear Shannon,
I think Geek is Chic ;)

Dear Moof,
You rebel you!

Dear B,
Trust your instincts to try new things. It's hard to do at first, but take baby steps with things. I hope you will find you are sticking your toe in the water and then your foot, and then.....

Dear Misty,
You seem to know yourself very well. That is such a GREAT thing.

Dear HP,
Me too ;) But remember, Geek is Chic, my friend.

Dear Alan,
I believe you have done SO much in your life and you should be proud of what you HAVE accomplished and changed. I know I am of you.

Dear Raine,
Aspects of bipolar do make certain impulses and their regulation difficult.

Dear S'Onnie,
You sounded like a great kid....and you are a wonderful adult. Sometimes moms don't get us, y'know?


Jade said...

I definately did some risky stuff as a teen. I experimented with drugs, drank till I threw up, and ditch class but there was always a line I wouldnt cross. I never drove drunk, stayed away from powered drugs, and didnt have sex until I was out of high school because I was so scared of getting pregnant ( plus I never really wanted to sleep around...should have been my first gay alert huh? ;-)
Thinking back I feel like all the risky/stupid stuff I did as a teen has made me a more aware adult. I still dont drink and drive, no more drug experimentation ( but my past has helped me in recognizing high people in the public and in work settings)and there's no way I could ever be promiscuous in this day and age! You basically have to boil people, then go with them for a blood test after to make sure you dont contract something!

Donna said...

I was one of those teens that got into trouble with drinking and drugs, but after high school, I decided to stop doing all that and ended up being a boring person ;)

When you have a teen of your own, all that stuff you did comes back to you and makes you worry about what kind of trouble they'll get into. Thank goodness my kid was mostly good!

Midwife with a Knife said...

I've always been a risk taker. My mom tells me that my risk taking habits really worry her to this day. I feel like taking risks is good for you, in a lot of ways.

I mean, sure I chipped my olecrannon (part of the elbow) trying to sled down a bluff (a little to steep for sledding, I ended up more falling than sledding). I have a small bone shard in my elbow to this day.

My mom used to think that the rapelling I do would get me killed, or maybe scuba diving, or maybe it was the deep water drysuit diving.

Then there was a time a few months ago I blew up my clothes. Long story.

When I was 10, we had a 12 foot retaining wall, and of me and my 4 siblings, I was the only one who would jump off it when backed into a corner during a game of tag or hide and seek.

Oh, and when I was on the rifle team in high school (do high schools still have rifle teams?), I think my mom was sure I was going to get shot some how. And not to mention when we got to go to the army base and play with M-16s, M-60's (a way cool machine gun for a teenager to play with!), and throw a couple grenades.

I think my mom is probably surprised I survived my childhood.

But really, aside from a few broken bones (and bones heal!), I'd say I'm none the worse for wear for my risk taking. I suspect it added a few years onto my mom's age.

But at the same time, I always wore my seatbelt... never messed with drugs, really. I actually am too worried that I would really like them, or at least some of them, to try them. Never engaged in risky sexual behaviour, really.

So, I guess I took all the safe risks? Hah! Sorry, this ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would.

benp said...

I was a kind of risky teenagers. I think that was a good thing. By trying a lot you learn what is good or not for you. Not I'm 23 and I'm less risky, but probably still a bit over the average !

Clare said...

You sound very similar to me, Deb as I am not a risk taker at all :).

Fallen Angels said...

Guess it depends on which of us you are asking. :|

During High School the biggest risk was drinking. We never drove after drinking but we did once roller skate down some stairs while drunk! Of course there was also the time that we were drunk and went tipping cows. We walked along the train tracks in the dark and headed across the tressel... yes, the train came! There were four of us and only enough room for two on the little platform off the side of the tressel. Good thing the guys were big! They stood on the platform and held us two girls under the arms... hanging off the side! I'm not sure how high it was over the creak...maybe 100 ft? It was high enough that you couldn't hear a rock hit the water when you dropped it over. I'm surprised we survived.

I really agree with what JIP said... a lot of our risky behavior was geared to either be noticed and rescued or to flat out not survive. There were a few times we were surprised and disappointed by surviving.

Lynn said...

In regard to your response to my comment -

Sometimes, even whether or not a person is shy, introverted or extroverted can be heavily influenced by what goes on in their family of origin. If a teen is in pain and it is due to abuse, and this child has learned since birth that 'making waves' leads to punishment, embarrassment or more pain, then guess what? They are not going to tell someone they are in pain. They will hold it in until it leaks out inappropraitely, usually against the self because then it might still be kept 'quiet'. I think nurture effects the mental and emotional health of children more than nature does. I'm also discovering that 'a family history of anxiety disorders' is sometimes 'code' for multi-generational child abuse. People should have to get some sort of license to become parents. A license is required to have a dog, but any yahoo may decide the fate of a human baby. Can you tell I completely ignored mother's day? I ranted, didn't I? *sigh*

To sum up: Nature and Nurture both influence these things. I think Nurture is the bigger player.

PalmTreeChick said...

My risky behavior got me in trouble last month. I fudged the date on the gym pass at the gym I was at and got caught. I have never gotten in trouble before. I felt like such a loser.

I've never had a drink of alcohol, never smoked or tried drugs, heck, I don't even know what pot smells like.

Godwhacker said...

TaiC and I have been close friends since 1980 or there about, family in the best sense of the word.

dawn said...

i definitely was a risk taker as a child and teenager. i did do a lot of things to my body both internally and externally that were pretty dangerous and unhealty. thankfully though i've stopped most of these behaviours.

as always, great post dr deb!!! :D

kath said...

I was a very independent child. I was a risk taker only in small ways....
always encouraged by my blessed grandmother. I drank at home, at a young mixed with ginger ale.

I used drugs, pot and phenobarb, mostly. (My friends dad was a physician and she would steal the phenobarb from his office in their downstairs...) and drank a little in high school..and had unprotected sex... but in those days it was not the same as doing it today.

I was very responsible though, I had to be. It was up to me to take care of the hosue and cook and take care of my sister from when I was ten.


I was an independent, responsible rebel... I think. Um... still am I guess.

ellesu said...

I'm not a risk taker either. I like a life I can depend on -- for the most part.

I'm glad to hear about the ARI. I hope it can be used with other tools in helping many adolescents.

My big risk in high school involved McDonald's as well. Along with several friends, I left campus and drove to McD's for lunch -- where we ran smack dab into a couple of our high school teachers who'd been planted there to catch us. Woo hoo, huh?

drytears said...

I went to Wal-Mart in my homecoming and prom dress before the dances! We ran all over the store just having fun. Before the homecoming dance we bought huge heart sunglasses!

What would be fun though is to go to McDonalds in gown of course and to go jump in the balls!! :)

Skye said...

Risky? not me, the most I ever did was sit next to the girl @ graduation who decided to streak. I'm too shy :)

Grumpy Old Man said...

Risk averse, especially if the risk is physical.

Like the kid who ran away from home but didn't get very far because he wasn't allowed to cross the street.

On the other hand I rode my bicycle all over in Manhattan traffic at twelve. Depends what scares you, I guess.

Cathy said...

I am not risky either, although is highschool I drank and was sneaky about it. I never encountered drugs (I don't know how), but I doubt I would have gotten into that whole scene.
Now explain the gown story! :)

Sid said...

I was a closet risk taker. 95% of the people around me saw me as a very quiet, shy dork...including my family.

Very few people knew that I drank, smoked, did drugs, had lots of unprotected sex, drove drunk, shoplifted, etc, etc, during my teens & early 20's.

Somehow I managed to stay out of trouble while doing it all.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear JAde,
Isn't it amazing how we learn from experience....and are grateful that nothing worse happened. I am glad that you say that.

Dear Donna,
Sounds like you found your way very young and stayed there :)

Dear MWAK,
Wow, you've done some amazing things. And it was a GREAT post. Thanks for sharing.

Dear Benp,
Hey, thanks for commenting. It *is* true that some people find experiences help them to see what fits and what is something to pass by.

Dear Clare,
We click for yet another reason ;)

Dear Fallen Angels,
I've heard of tipping cows but never really knew anyone who did that! And that creek experience sounded scary.

Dear Lynn,
Yes, nature AND nuture. Two biggies in how our lives our shaped.

Dear Palmtree,
Your gym pass comment made me lol, thanks for sharing it with us.

Dear GW,
Ah, I get it now.

Dear Dawn,
I am so glad that you take fewer risks now. You are an awesome person who I consider a dear blogpal.

Dear KAth,
I never, ever would have thought that about you. Thanks for sharing your life story a bit here.

Dear Ellesu,
Another McDonald's story, ;)

Dear Drytears,
I love your story too!!

Dear Skye,

Dear GOM,
That's a good point. BTW, your writing always makes me smile.

Dear Cathy,
A bunch of us decided it would be really fun to dress up in our old prom gown, to go order food at McDonalds and then sit and eat the meal in its entirety there. We did and it was fun!!

Dear Sid,
I am am so happy that you managed to survive all that you did. It must've taken a lot of courage and strength.


marie said...

Good post. It seems that teens today are more troubled than when I was growing up.

I have posted a new short story. If you would like to comment please use the previous post comment section. I need a professional opinion on this one.

Janejill said...

Well I am so glad NOT to be a risk taker any more - the Drama Queen part still lies waiting , though I am working on that. My reasons were partially genetic (A whole ancestry of drinkers and gamblers , and probably other things too) but mainly to do with being kept in an emotional straitjacket till I escaped at 18. Trouble is habits are always attractive even if harmful. My son seems to have taken over where I left off and is even more inventive than I was and so is doing himself more harm. How I wish for the wisdom to be able to stop him; instead of which I have earned the self-restraint to stop trying to make it better and just wait till he finds his own restriants. Hard and so tough. will it stop with him..

Nella said...

I would say that I'm not a Risk taker. Not on that kind of stuff... I couldn't ever seeing myself doing something like that.

(New blog post)

Fallen Angels said...

Tipping cows...not really much fun unless you are drunk! Also, not very humane...the cow can actually be injured when tipped. Not something I am particularly proud of. The train tressel/creek incident...not all that scary. Probably due to frame of mind. Surviving meant going home at some point and home was the 10th level of h*ll...not surviving an "accident" was a lot less scary than going home.

New post for all those who have/had trouble with Mother's Day on our blog.

Dreaming again said...

The riskiest behavior I indulge in:

Pretending that I'm a healthy person and adjusting my schedule to that of a perfectly healthy individual. (rather than one that is an autoimmune mess)

Talking to, and occassionally meeting my 'invisible friends' on the internet *GRIN* (mostly those from the medical sphere, parent and or patient support groups, after having 'known' them for a while ...not through dating services etc)

Scribble said...

I didn't rebel much as a child. We 5 kids took care of each other due to my single mom working all the time.
I never drank because she did.
In excess. I rarely do now.
I did smoke pot in my 20's and
tried various other drugs then. Nothing stuck. I prefer lucid minds.
My children tell me I am impossible to rebel against because I have been honest about my life to them in every way. They know little will shock me. They have good heads and as young adults impress me with their respect of their own bodies.

HeiressChild said...

i did my share of things. on the one hand it was taking risks, but i wasn't a risk-taker, if you know what i mean. looking back, i can see the risks i was taking, but i thank God for His protection in keeping me safe while doing some of the things i did. thank God for maturity and wisdom.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear MArie,
Just catching up with my comments. Will be there in a bit.

Dear Janejill,
Wisdom is something one earns with age and experience. Too bad we can't give it to our kids as they grow like vitamins!

Dear Nella,
Yup, I'm the same.

Dear Fallen,
I thought it might hurt the cows!

Dear Dreaming,
Those are not bad.

Dear Heiress,
I know what you mean.


patientanonymous said...

Okay first off, your age! You don't look it...holy crap!

I was never a risk taker as a kid...ingrained to be a good girl. But I might not fit in to the "regular" demographic as when the Bipolar hit as an adult--entirely different ball game.