In this paper, genetic factors will refer to those aspects or traits that are inherited from the parents by the children. This may be for example, violence, attitudes among others. Environmental factors will be considered as the physical, social, economic, cultural and political attributes which occur or are prevalence during ones development. Adolescent risk behaviors are those traits evident in the lives of adolescent children that pose a threat to their present or future productivity. They include alcoholism, sexual immorality, violence, robbery, addiction to watching eating among other things. An adolescent in our case will be any child below the age of 18 years and above 11 years. We shall consider the likelihood of these genetic or environmental factors causing adolescent risk behaviors
According to a paper, Risk Factors Predicting Changes in Marijuana Involvement in Teenagers by Marianne B. M.; Wallace B., environmental factors could actually influence the behaviors of adolescents. The study took a sample of 13 718 middle schools and high school students aged 11-21 years. The study measured marijuana use in schools, cultural influences, level of drop out due to marijuana use and pastime activities for students, peer influence among others. This was done through computer -assisted personal interview, observation, school records, criminal records and secondary literature.
It was found that three risk factors own and peer involvement with substances, delinquency, and school problems were the strongest predictors of marijuana use. Their combined presence greatly increased risk of initiation of experimental (odds ratio, 20) and regular (odds ratio, 87) marijuana use over the next year. Personality, family, religious, and pastime factors also exerted marijuana use influences.
According to a publication ‘Shared aetiology of risky sexual behavior and adolescent misconduct: genetic and environmental influences’ by K. Verweij et al., environmental and genetic factors are possible influences on adolescent risk sexual behaviors (RSB). In this study, normal variation in a broad measure of RSB and in retrospectively reported adolescent misconduct in a large community sample of twins (n 5 4904) to partition the variance and covariance between the traits into genetic and environmental components.
The study sample consisted of 4904 (1824 male and 3080 female) Australian twins reared together, ranging in age from 19 to 52 years. This included 1907 complete same-sex and opposite-sex twin pairs and 1090 single twins (who contribute to the precision of the sample statistics). In 1991–1992, participants anonymously completed a mailed questionnaire about their sexual behavior and attitudes as well as personality and demographic information. The RSB measure included a checklist of eight behaviors such as failure to use condoms or other birth control methods, participation in concurrent sex partnerships, non-discriminating sex partner recruitment and having sex after heavy alcohol consumption.
Older participants exhibited less RSB and adolescent misconduct than younger participants. Also, we found a significant difference in the distribution of both variables between sexes such that males show more RSB and adolescent misconduct than females. Within sexes, thresholds for MZ twins, DZ twins and singletons could be equated without deterioration of model fit, indicating that twin status (MZ vs. DZ) has no effect on the RSB and adolescent misconduct scores.The genetic study on a broad measure of RSB found that both genes and shared environment play substantial roles in individual differences.
During the study it was found that the adolescent misconduct measure included other 19 behaviors such as smoking marijuana, cheating in a test and staying out all night without parents’ permission. These behaviors showed considerable overlap with criteria for DSM-IV conduct disorder (American Psychiatric Association 2000)
Another article ‘Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data’ also indicated the close relationship between social environmental factor and adolescent risk behaviors. In this case the study attempted to attach liability on too much idle time among the school going adolescents. The sample included students in various grades in a time frame of ten years.
The variables included free time use and risky behaviors studied were dropping out of school, having children while still teenagers, being delinquent, smoking, and using marijuana or cocaine, and binge drinking. The study found that U.S. teenagers have a lot of discretionary time available to them and, for most, that time is not being filled with activities that build their skills or characters. For example, today’s 10th grade students devote on average only one half hour per day to homework. Less than 20 percent of them read for pleasure almost every day, only 15 percent work daily on hobbies, arts, or crafts and just 5 percent routinely use personal computers for schoolwork or recreation.
They watch television (two and a half hours per day, on average); they talk with other teens on the telephone (60 percent say they do so on a daily basis); and they hang out with friends in malls and other neighborhood hangouts (64 percent do this at least one or twice a week).This in turn impacts their lives negatively as they influence each other into risky behaviors. The findings indicate that organized youth activities can help to deter risky behavior in adolescence and young adulthood.
When data on adolescent time use and risky behavior were analyzed separately for males and females, similar relationships were found. One difference was that the deterrent effect of extracurricular participation on teen childbearing was more clearly evident among females than males. Similar relationships were also observed when the number of activities in which students participated was used as a measure of extracurricular involvement instead of hours per week
However, the effectiveness of an activity depends not just on the degree to which it occupies idle time, but also on the extent to which it develops skills, creates challenges, and provides fulfilling experiences for teen participants. It depends as well on the attitudes that other participants have about engaging in specific high-risk behaviors. If the group code encourages some forms of risky behavior, such as binge drinking or sexual promiscuity, participation in the activity may be counterproductive.
The three studies clearly reveal a relationship between environmental and genetic factor with risky adolescent behaviors. They take various approaches to study these aspects. They are having well sampled populations especially the publication by Verweij that clearly brings out the difference between the twins in shared and different environments. The study on effects of idle time on the adolescents had a suitable timeframe which revealed the social difference in societal set up.
The findings of the three studies show that the adolescents are a vulnerable group that require attention and safeguard measures. I am of the opinion that these outcomes are a red light warning in the education system. There is need to curb these environmental factors that cause this behaviors and mitigate the genetic factors. Failure to this initiative, there will be increased school drop outs, alcoholism, degradation of societal morals and reduced productivity among these future parents.
Measures should be put in place to encourage constructive extracurricular activities. The education system should adopt comprehensive strategies to curb negative influences on the adolescents. Risky sexual behaviors should be addressed in every academic forum. Perpetrators of heinous acts that lead the adolescents into habits like smoking, drinking and immorality should be punished accordingly.
Monitoring systems should be put in place by the stakeholders including the parents to ensure that their adolescents are not exposed to these dangerous environments. The older generation should impact the younger generation with constructive life skills. Political support cannot be undermined in this case and will go a far way in sobering a world of adolescents drunk with risky practices.
The studies were of much help but a few issues are worth considering in future studies. There is a need to focus on emerging issues in the education sector that are related to risky adolescent behaviors. A brief summary of the research methodology will be important.
K. Verweij et al., (2009). Shared aetiology of risky sexual behavior and adolescent misconduct: genetic and environmental influences. Genetic Epidemiology, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Queensland, Australia.
Marianne B. M. ; Wallace B.(2005). Risk Factors Predicting Changes in Marijuana Involvement in Teenagers. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Oxford University Press, U.S.
Nicholas Z. et al., (1995) Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data. Department of Health and Human Services. Oxford University Press, U.S