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Teen-age Trends of Risky Behavior a 'Mixed Bag'

continued...

Time is important, says Resnick, as the change in sexual attitudes took place over many years, and "had time to trickle down that unthinking behavior could be lethal." He predicts cocaine use also will decrease in the coming years because of what he called the "younger sibling syndrome." Basically, younger siblings will see how the drugs, especially crack, messed up their older sibling's lives, and will choose to break the cycle.

Breaking the cycle and lowering risky behavior is, after all, the overall goal, according to Kann. "I think this report helps us understand what kids are doing, and with that information, we can develop programs and policies that will address their needs. It's far better to build programs based on knowing what kids are really doing rather than what us grownups might think they're doing," Kann tells WebMD, noting that there has been progress in the last decade.

Resnick says a key to more progress is enhancing the "protective factors" in teen-agers' lives. "Kids who report a strong sense of connection to parents, to family, to school -- and I should add that this sense of connectedness cross-cuts all family forms, single parent, dual parent foster families, adoptive families -- when kids report this sense of connection and closeness ... they engage in less risk taking behavior," Resnick tells WebMD. "The good news is there are strategies we can use that will have multiple payoffs on multiple levels for all of our kids, whether they're black, white, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian, boys or girls."

Vital Information:

  • The CDC reports that when it comes to reducing risky behaviors, teens are showing "a mixed bag." The recent report shows since 1991, risky sexual behavior is declining and condom use is increasing, but smoking and use of drugs and alcohol are not.
  • An observer notes he is encouraged to see some decline in teens' risky behavior but adds compared to Europe, the U.S. still could make a lot of improvement.
  • Experts say education is working but needs to continue and time is needed for change to take place, along with helping teens feel connected to their parents and values.
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