Children who have a strong positive relationship with an adult mentor are less likely to participate in risky behaviors, according to an article in the April issue of the American Medical Associations's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a member of the Journal of the American Medical Association family of journals.
The researchers surveyed 294 adolescents between 12 and 23 years (average age 16.9 years) of age who received outpatient care at a suburban community-based teaching hospital to study the association between having an adult mentor and high-risk behaviors in adolescents. The risk behaviors studied included smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using drugs, carrying weapons, and sexual practices.
The authors found adolescents with adult mentors were significantly less likely to ever carry a weapon, use illicit drugs in the previous 30 days, smoke more than five cigarettes per day, and have sex with more than one partner. Mentor relationships did not appear to influence drinking alcohol.
"We can conclude that the utilization of adult mentors should be supportive as a key strategy in working with adolescents to decrease certain risk behaviors and their consequent morbidity and mortality," write the researchers.
According to information cited in the article, more than 75 percent of adolescent deaths are due to unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides and many, if not most of these deaths, are the consequence of high-risk behaviors.
Editor's Note: To contact lead author Sharon R. Beier, MD, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y., call Karen Gardner at 718-430-3101.
(Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2000; 154:327-331)
For more information about the journal or to obtain a copy of the study, contact the American Medical Association's Amy Jenkins at 312-464-4843, e-mail: Amy_Fox@ama-assn.org.