Risky Behaviors and Bullying Toolkit (page 2)
What do we mean by Risky Behaviors?
Experimenting with new behaviors and activities is a normal part of child and youth development. Testing limits and finding new interests move young people toward independence and self-sufficiency. So when does normal experimenting cross the line into risky behaviors? When a behavior puts the health, physical well-being, or relationships with anyone in jeopardy, the term risky behavior applies.
Current Thoughts About Risky Behaviors
Two frameworks currently dominate the risky behavior literature. Both approaches share the same philosophy - to prevent risky behaviors, caring adults must create positive environments and experiences for youth.
Hawkins & Catalano
|Doctors David Hawkins and Robert Catalano have done extensive research in this area. Based on their research, specific risk and protective factors can be correlated to specific risky behaviors. Risk factors are those circumstances that may increase youths likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. Conversely, protective factors are any circumstances that promote healthy youth behaviorsand decrease the chance that youth will engage in risky behaviors.||Based on research, a 40 developmental asset framework has been created as a common sense approach to supporting positive youth development. This framework categorizes 40 assets into two groups: 20 external assets and 20 internal assets. External assets are the positive experiences young people receive from the world around them and include roles of families, schools, and neighborhoods. Internal assets identify those characteristics and behaviors that help youth make thoughtful, positive choices such as positive values, social competencies, and commitment to learning.|
A Case for Addressing Risky Behaviors
Regardless of the approach taken, there is strong and consistent evidence that disruptive and anti-social behavior at school, whether reported by teachers or students, is related to academic achievement. In fact, Hawkins & Catalano offer a predictable pattern of behavior for youth with specific risk factors.
Students who have specific risk factors (in the first column) are very likely to become at-risk for the risky behaviors in the remaining columns of the table.
|RISK FACTORS||Risky Behavior: Substance Use||Risky Behavior: Delinquency||Risky Behavior:Teen Pregnancy||Risky Behavior:School Dropout||Risky Behavior: Violence|
|Academic failure begining in late elementary school||X||X||X||X||X|
|Lack of commitment to school||X||X||X||X||X|
|Early and persistent anti-social behavior||X||X||X||X||X|
|Friends who engage in problem behaviors||X||X||X||X|
|Favorable attitudes towards problem behaviors||X||X||X||X||X|
|Early initiation of problem behaviors||X||X||X||X||X|
Protective factors, on the other hand, can be described as the “buffers” for risk factors. The most effective approach for improving young people’s lives is to reduce risk factors while increasing protective factors in all of the areas in their lives. Protective factors related to school include:
- Caring and Support - Nuturing staff and positive role models, peer support, personal attention and interest from teachers, and warm and responsive climates.
- High Expectations - Minimum mastery to basic skills, emphasis on higher order academics, and avoidance of negative labeling and tracking.
- Opportunities for Meaningful Participation - Leadership and decision-making by students, student participation in extra-curricular activities, parent and community participation in instruction, and culturally diverse curricula and experiences.
Risky Behaviors and Bullying: A Learning Supports Data Tool
What do We Mean by Bullying?
Bullying is a specific type of risky behavior that (1) is intended to harm or disturb another person, (2) occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one.
Bullying is also a risk factor for serious violence. In an analysis of school shootings in the United States, the Secret Service found that over two-thirds of those students who had engaged in a shooting considered their act to be one of revenge for on-going and long-term harassment and intimidation by peers. Additionally, many of these students reported that they didnt have even one adult in their lives they could go to for help.
Despite these potentially serious consequences, bullying is as prevalent in Iowa schools as it is across the nation. Based on the most recent Iowa Youth Survey, about half of all the 6th, 8th, and 11th grade students reported that they believe that adults in their school do nothing to stop bullying when it occurs. This discrepancy between student and adult beliefs about intervening in bullying incidents suggests that teachers only detect a small proportion of incidences that occur.
A Case for Addressing Bullying
Bullying and harassing behaviors are associated with negative school outcomes such as absenteeism and poor academic performance. Additionally, excessive teasing has been related to depression, social anxiety, decreased self-esteem, anger, and sadness.
Increasing awareness of the problem and sending a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated is the first step. That should be followed by a coordinated school/community effort that reinforces clear rules and policies, offers supports for victims and bystanders, and provides supports (protective factors and assets) for bullies.
So What? What does your data say about risky behaviors and bullying?
Where To Find Your Data - The Iowa Youth Survey
The Iowa Youth Survey (IYS) is a voluntary survey given to 6th, 8th, and 11th graders on a three-year cycle, most recently in the fall of 2005. Most school districts (359) and students (98,246) in the state participated in the survey in 2005. The survey relies on students to read and honestly answer each question, but the data from 1999, 2002, and 2005 is quite consistent. Also, to safeguard the validity of the survey results, each survey proceeds through a series of validity checks and is not included in the analysis if it fails these checks. So, the IYS is considered to be a comprehensive, reliable, and valid data source in the state of Iowa.
Constructs Represented in The IYS
The 2005 IYS is comprised of 190 questions and contains information about students’ environment, behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions of others. Many of the questions are grouped together to form constructs that summarize important concepts in the data. Below is a list of the 34 constructs covered in the 2005 survey. Constructs that are bold and italic contain questions related to risky behaviors and bullying.
|Positive family relationships||Suicide risk|
|Family involvement and support||Current alcohol use|
|Parental/guardian boundaries||Current tobacco use|
|Positive parental/guardian norms||Current illegal drug use|
|School expectations/boundaries||Substance use risk awareness|
|Safe school environment||Violent/aggressive behavior|
|School perceived to be safe*||Gambling|
|School staff/student support||Helping others*|
|Positive student norms||Empathy|
|Social pressure to use substances||Self-confidence|
|Positive community adult norms||Self-esteem*|
|Positive community peer norms||Acceptance of diversity|
|Youth access to substances limited||Positive values|
|Safe neighborhood||Peer pressure resistance*|
|Supportive neighborhood||Commitment to school/learning|
|Alcohol/drug free places available*||Positive work ethic*|
|Bullying||Adults stop bullying*|
*Construct contains only one item.
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