Youth Risk Behaviors
Adolescents living in high-poverty urban settings face complex challenges to their health and futures. These include pressures to engage in risk behaviors such as violence and early sexual initiation. The Center for Research on High Risk Behaviors in EDC's Health and Human Development Programs (HHD) recently published three articles describing findings from the Reach for Health portfolio of studies that are designed to explore the interconnections of risk behaviors and test promising prevention approaches.
“This research is pivotal for addressing ongoing disparities in the physical and mental health of youth growing up in economically disadvantaged communities,” according to Lydia O’Donnell, Ed.D., who directs the center.
While a great deal of research has been devoted to studying interpersonal violence among urban youth, there is little information about suicidality in this population. To address this gap, “Aggressive Behaviors in Early Adolescence and Subsequent Suicidality among Urban Youths,” by O’Donnell and colleagues was published in the December 2005 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The article used data from the Reach for Health longitudinal study, which has followed a large sample of New York City African American and Latino youth from middle school into young adulthood. It examined whether youth who reported aggressive behaviors during middle school were more likely to report suicidal ideation and suicide attempts during high school. The research found that girls who engaged in aggressive behaviors such as fighting and weapon carrying during 8th grade were more likely to report suicidality in 11th grade. This connection between outer-directed and inner-directed violence was not observed among males. “Early warning signs of suicidality may differ by gender and require different interventions. In particular, our findings point to the need to pay greater attention to aggression among girls and its connection to mental health,” says O’Donnell.
Reprinted with the permission of the Educational Development Center. © 1994-2008 Education Development Center, Inc. All rights reserved.
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