Adolescents who have thrill-seeking personalities are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. “Among risk factors in the individual domain, sensation seeking consistently has been identified as a positive predictor of health risk behaviors (Zuckerman, 2006), including substance use,” said Alex W. Mason of the National Research Institute for Child and Family Studies in Boys Town, Nebraska, and lead author of a recent study. “An important adolescent protective factor in the individual domain is religiosity.” Previous research has shown that religious values and church attendance heavily influence a teen and can prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors. To test this theory further, Mason led a study examining how the various aspects of religiosity affected teen substance use. “In summary, this study examines thrill-seeking measured in early adolescence and two dimensions of religiosity, religious salience and religious attendance, measured throughout the teen years in relation to late adolescent substance use frequency among a sample of rural youth,” said Mason.
Participants in the study included 322 male and 345 female 11-year-olds from a rural community. Mason assessed their religiosity, substance use and thrill-seeking behaviors over a seven year period, ending when the children were 18, and found that thrill-seeking was a major factor in predicting drug and alcohol use later on. “Although thrill-seeking can be expressed in many pro-social ways among teens, a thrill-seeking orientation may represent a marker of risk for involvement in antisocial and health compromising activities, including substance use.” Mason also found that religiosity decreased substance use in the youth, even in those with thrill-seeking tendencies. He noted that the results of this study could have significant practical implications. “In particular, results suggest that adolescents could be screened for high levels of thrill-seeking (along with other known risk characteristics in the individual, family, peer, school, and community domains) and referred for substance use prevention programming.” He added, “Furthermore, although the precise nature of the relationship between religiosity and adolescent substance use remains to be determined, acknowledging the importance of religion for some teens involved in substance use prevention programs may facilitate engagement with the materials and help reinforce anti-substance use messages and skill-building exercises.”
Mason, Alex W., and Richard L. Spoth. “Thrill Seeking and Religiosity in Relation to Adolescent Substance Use: Tests of Joint, Interactive, and Indirect Influences.”Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 25.4 (2011): 683-96. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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