Belief of Dying Young Linked to Some Risky Teen Behaviors
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2009 Jun 30
This new study could provide a good opportunity for parents to enter into discussion with their kids on various topics. Parents could ask their kids about what they feel their prospects are for reaching certain ages, and why they believe so. Parents can also engage their kids in a discussion about why they believe teenagers take risks. And, parents might find an opening in the discussion to reinforce spiritual concepts of the value of life, people being created in the image of God, and responsibilities of honoring God through our actions, and of self-control.
Challenging the notion that risky behavior reflects a youthful sense of immortality, a new study has found almost 15 percent of American teens believe they will die before age 35 -- a perspective strongly linked to risky behavior.
"Prior research has shown that typically teenagers are no worse than adults in terms of viewing their own vulnerability, and, thankfully, most adolescents in this country do not believe that their risk of early death is high," noted study author Dr. Iris Wagman Borowsky, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. "But we found that more than one in seven youths do have a pessimistic view about their future mortality and are more likely to take risks."
The findings, published in the July issue of Pediatrics, are based on a three-year tracking of attitudes and behaviors among 20,594 teens who were in 7th through 12th grade at the start of the study.
The teens were interviewed periodically to gauge their views on personal mortality and to tally the degree to which they engaged in such behaviors as attempting suicide, using illegal drugs, sustaining fight-related injuries that required medical care, engaging in unprotected sex, being arrested by the police and contracting HIV or AIDS.
The interviews revealed that nearly 15 percent of the teens believed they had just a 50-50 chance of living to age 35.
The study also found that a teen's mental state and behavior were mutually influential. A teen who predicted a short lifespan, for instance, during an early interview was more likely to engage in subsequent risky behavior, and teens who engaged in risky behavior throughout the first year of the study were more likely to develop a pessimistic view of their future.