15 - Adaptation among Youth Facing Multiple Risks: Prospective Research Findings  pp. 364-391

Adaptation among Youth Facing Multiple Risks: Prospective Research Findings

By Arnold Sameroff, Leslie Morrison Gutman and Stephen C. Peck

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The high prevalence of mental health problems among children in the United States has continued to stimulate service-oriented professionals to seek targets for preventive intervention. In a 1999 survey of youth risk behavior during the previous year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000), 28% of high school children felt blue or hopeless, 19% had considered suicide, and 8% had made an attempt. In terms of aggression, 36% had been in a physical fight. Academic problems were equally serious, with 30% of Hispanics dropping out before high school graduation compared to 14% of African Americans and 8% of whites. Although the majority of youth do not have such problems, the number who do is substantial.

Understanding the pathways that have led to such problem behavior is an important precursor of any successful intervention. Prevention is intimately connected to developmental concerns because there is an expected time course in which activities in the present will influence activities in the future. Where the problem seems to be in the family, school, or peer group, intuitively interventions should take place in those settings and should have immediate impact. Unfortunately, most interventions in single domains have not produced major reductions in problem behavior. It appears that children typically experience multiple risks in multiple social contexts; consequently, it is unlikely that a “magic bullet” for prevention or intervention will be found (Masten & Coatsworth, 1998).

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