Jay's World of Abstracts 00020

Jay's World of Abstracts

The Case for Youth Empowerment

(Author Unknown)
Gleaned from the servers at Florida State University

[Standard disclaimer: The nature of abstracts are that they are pieces of something larger. Not everyone is going to be happy with my choice of abstracts from any larger work, so if you are dissatisfied, I would refer you to the original document, which should be able to be found on the Internet. I encourage others to make their own abstracts to satisfy their needs. I would be happy to publish them here.

Jay's Introduction

Normally, I don't put up abstracts that I can't find an author for. I made an exception this time because most of the research is annotated and this is just an excellent piece.

Youth Empowerment says that kids can actually choose to do what they want. It gets really easy for us to look at statistics and see these kids as sheep moving along a pre-determined course toward dilinquency and failure which only the influence of powerful external forces can possibly stop. If we painted that picture, perhaps teen rebellion will put them on a better course! The point is that youths can be in control of their lives and make good choices just because they want to!

This abstract outlines the problems that youth empowerment hopes to address.

I produced this abstract using time paid for by the Quay County Maternal Child and Community Health Council with funds from the New Mexico Department of Health.


Today's youth are at risk for a variety of negative public- health and health-related conditions. Professionals in public health and medicine generally agree that most of the health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity, mortality, and social problems of youth are established during the early years, then extend into adulthood. Young people often engage in behavior that places them at risk for a variety of preventable conditions.

The CDC reports that 73% of all deaths among school- age youth and young adults (10-24 years old) in the United States are attributed to four causes: motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Behaviors such as alcohol and other drug abuse and sexual activity contribute to youth morbidity and mortality. (Kann, Kinchen, Williams, Ross, Lowry, Hill, Grunbaum, Blumson, Collins, & Kolbe, 1998).

According to Singh, Kochaneck, and MacDorman (as cited in National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 1999), homicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among all 15-19 year olds and as the number one cause of death among African-American and Hispanic youth in this age group. In 1994, a total of 8,116 youth ages 15-24 died as a result of homicide. Almost 90% of these homicides resulted from firearm use (CDC, 1996). Over the past two years, multiple shootings in U.S. schools resulted in several fatalities and numerous injuries. Results from the 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) revealed that 5.9% of high school students carried a gun onto school property in the 30 days prior to the survey, and nearly 20% of students carried some type of weapon onto school property on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey. More than one-third of these students reported being involved in a physical fight at least once during the 12 months prior to the survey (Kann et al., 1998).

In the United States, the number of completed suicides increased among young people between ages 15 and 25 from 4.5 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.2 per 100,000 in 1990 (Woods, Lin, Middleman, Beckford, Chase, & DuRant, 1997). According to the 1997 YRBSS, 7.7% of all high school students attempted suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey. Among all high school students, 2.6% committed a suicide attempt that required medical attention; 20.5% experienced serious suicidal ideation; and 15.7% had more serious suicidal ideation as indicated by a specific suicide plan (Kann et al., 1998).

Unintentional Injuries
Results from the 1997 YRBSS revealed that, nationally, 19.3% of high school students rarely or never wore a seat belt when riding in a vehicle driven by another person; 36.2% rarely or never wore a motorcycle helmet when riding a motorcycle during the 12 months prior to the survey; 84.4% rarely or never wore a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle during the 12 prior to the survey; 36.6% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least once during the 30 days prior to the survey; and 16.9% drove a vehicle at least once after consuming alcohol during the 30 days prior to the survey (Kann et al., 1998).

Alcohol and Other Drug Use
Research studies have found that drug use-including alcohol-is associated with high-risk sexual behavior. Alcohol and other illicit drug use may increase adolescents' sexual risk for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy indirectly by lowering inhibitions and impairing judgment (Rotheram-Borus & Kooperman, 1991). According to the CDC (1994), driver alcohol use is associated with half of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths among 5-24 year olds.

Results from the 1997 YRBSS revealed that almost 80% of high school students had consumed at least one drink of alcohol during their lifetime. More than 50% had consumed at least one drink of alcohol one or more days in the 30 days prior to the survey, and more than 33% had consumed five or more drinks of alcohol on one or more occasions in the 30 days prior to the survey (Kann et al., 1998).

According to the CDC (1994), most tobacco users initiate use prior to high school graduation, and tobacco is most often the first drug used by youth who use other drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. More than 70% of high school students reported they had smoked a cigarette at least once, while more than 16% reported they had smoked cigarettes on 20 or more days during the 30 days prior to the survey. Additionally, almost 10% of high school students reported they had used smokeless tobacco on one or more of the 30 days prior to the survey (Kann et al., 1998).

Other Drugs
Forty-seven percent of high school students reported they had used marijuana at least once during their lifetime; 26% reported they had used marijuana at least once during the 30 days preceding the survey. Regarding other drug use, more than 8% had used some form of cocaine during their lifetime; 3.1% had used illegal steroids; 16% had engaged in inhalant use; and 17% had used other illegal drugs such as LSD, PCP, "ecstasy," mushrooms, "speed," "ice," and heroin during their lifetime. Schwartz (1998) reported that "new heroin users include adolescents in ever-increasing numbers" (p. 1461). Results from a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study (as cited in Schwartz, 1998) revealed that 1997 heroin use among high school seniors in the United States was 100% higher than in 1990-1996.

Sexual Behavior
Youth sexual behavior contributes to high rates of unintended teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection. Results from the 1997 YRBSS revealed that, nationally, almost half of the high school students surveyed had engaged in sexual intercourse during their lifetime; 7.2% had initiated sexual intercourse before age 13; 16.0% had engaged in sexual intercourse with four or more sexual partners; 56.8% of currently sexually active high school students (or their partner) had used a condom during their last sexual intercourse; and 16.6% of currently active high school students (or their partner) had used birth control pills before their last sexual intercourse (Kann et al., 1998).

Teenage Pregnancy
The United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the Western world. Approximately one million teenagers become pregnant each year in the United States. The majority (85%) of these pregnancies are unplanned and unintended. Approximately 50% of these pregnancies end in live births (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1999; State Legislatures, 1999; Kenney, Reinholtz, & Angelini, 1997). Once a teenager gives birth to a baby, her risk for giving birth to another baby increases. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (1999), approximately 25% of babies born to teenage mothers are not first births. Teenage pregnancy is associated with a number of factors including low socioeconomic status, low educational aspirations, alcohol and other drug use, and early initiation of sexual intercourse (Coley & Chase-Lansdale, 1998). Teenage pregnancy is linked with a variety of medical, psychosocial, and economic complications including neonatal death, low birth weight, prematurity, low maternal weight, pregnancy-induced hypertension (toxemia), school interruption, and unemployment or underemployment (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1999; The Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1998; Crooks and Baur, 1999).

Sexually Transmitted Infections
Approximately three million adolescents acquire a sexually transmitted infection each year in the United States. An estimated 86% of all sexually transmitted infections occur among youth ages 15-19, and by age 21, one in five people in the United States has been treated for a sexually transmitted infection (Crooks & Baur, 1999).

"A healthy, productive generation of adolescents in the 1990s will ensure that America has the healthy generation of adults needed to support the growing elderly population in the 21st century. The AIDS epidemic threatens the viability, perhaps the very existence, of this next generation. The social and economic well-being of this first 'AIDS generation' may well predict the future well-being of this nation as a whole in the next century" (Hein, 1992, p. 3). Though AIDS cases among adolescents appear low, less than 1%, most AIDS cases (62%) are diagnosed in persons ages 20-39. These data indicate that the initial infection frequently occurred during the teenage years and early twenties due to the 9-15 year latency period for AIDS (CDC, 1999). In addition, youth ages 13 to 24 comprised 4% of AIDS cases reported during the one-year period from July 1997 through June 1998. However, they constituted 15% of the HIV infection cases reported during the same one-year period (CDC, 1999).

The youth empowerment approach to health promotion puts information about and the responsibility for risky behaviors squarely in the hands of youth.

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