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RISK BEHAVIOUR OF YOUNGSTERS ASSOCIATED TO LEISURE
Foundation Centre for European Initiatives and Researchin the MediterraneanTrav. De les Corts, 39-43, lat. 2ªSPAIN - 08028 BarcelonaTel. +34 93 440 1000Fax +34 93 440 [email protected]
The CIREM Foundation is a private non-profit foundationdevoted to applied research and consulting in the field ofsocial sciences. Since it was founded in 1989, it has beendefined as an independent centre. The CIREM Foundationwas born with a marked Mediterranean focus, with theobjective of promoting greater knowledge of the specificcharacteristics of these societies within Europe as a whole.
§ Prof. Ferran Casas ([email protected]
Research Institute on Quality of LifeUniversity of GironaPl. S. Domènec, 9ES- 17071 Gironahttp://www.udg.es/irqvCo-ordinator of the Catalan Network of Child Researchershttp://www.udg.es/irqv/xciii
Ferran Casas is senior lecturer in Social Psychology andthe Director of the new Research Institute on Quality ofLife in the University of Girona. He is the CatalanInterdisciplinary Network of Researchers on Children’sRights and Quality of Life. He was the first President ofthe Advisory Board of Childwatch International -until1996-, and at present he is still a member of the Board. Heis involved in the editorial board of 7 scientific journals,and he is the author of several books and articles indifferent languages.
§ Spain (Madrid) :
Prof. Antonio Martin, Universidad
§ Portugal :
Joaquim Armando Ferreira, University of
§ Italy :
Prof. Martina Campart, CE.D.RI.T.T. Genova
http://www.cedritt.it, [email protected]
, Via Pertinace,18 - Villa Piaggio - 16125 Genova
§ The Netherlands (Amsterdam)
Dr. Peter H.
Kwakkelstein.Van Dijk; Warder 145, 1473 PJ,Warder (NH) [email protected]
Dr. Peter H. Kwakkelstein is a senior social scienceresearcher who during the last 25 years was employed bythe University of Amsterdam. He now works for theresearch institute DSP Research in Amsterdam. His mainfield of research for the last 20 years has been YouthPolicy. In this field he has published pioneering studies onLocal youth Policy, Youth Care Policy, YouthParticipation and Prevention. On many internationaloccasions he has advocated his views on Youth Policies.
He was co-author of the Dutch Youth Policy review onbehalf of the Council of Europe.
DSP Research is a research institute that carries outstudies and advises government bodies in the fields ofyouth policy, youth care, childcare, communitydevelopment, and others. Most of the work of the instituteis commissioned by various government bodies in TheNetherlands. [email protected]
This psychosocial oriented research aims to analyse the pattern of risk behaviour amongyoungsters during leisure time, the perception of risk and the reasons given by youngpeople themselves for such behaviour. It is based on an international survey conductedin five European metropolitan areas: Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Genoa andOporto. The final purpose was to identify the psychological and social factors which
favour or hinder the occurrence of such patterns of risk behaviour. The risk behavioursexplored are: dangerous driving, alcohol consumption, drugs consumption, risky sexualbehaviour, carrying arms, vandalistic behaviour and violent confrontations. Thecomparative survey results have shown that there are significant differences in sets ofvariables, between youngsters who engage in risk behaviour and those who do not,furthermore such differences are diverse in each social context (e.g., in eachgeographical area).
Research Subject and Objectives
This psychosocial oriented research aims to analyse the pattern of risk behaviour amongyoungsters during leisure time, the perception of risk and the reasons given by youngpeople themselves for such behaviour. It is based on an international survey conductedin five European metropolitan areas: Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Genoa and Porto.
The final purpose has been to identify the psychological and social factors which favouror hinder the occurrence of such patterns of risk behaviour. The risk behavioursexplored are: dangerous driving, alcohol consumption, drugs consumption, risky sexualbehaviour, carrying arms, vandalistic behaviour and violent confrontations.
The results obtained from this research are not from sociologically representative samples,so they cannot be generalised to the entire populations. The main goal has been focused onfinding out statistically significant relations between variables, in order to knowcharacteristic psychosocial patterns that are present when risky patterns of behaviour takeplace, in comparison with the groups of youngsters who do not behave in this way.
Methodology and methods
In order to tackle the issue of youngsters’ risk behaviour in leisure time, the researchstarted with a qualitative approach, focusing on the subjective perspective and personalexplanations of the individuals involved, in order to develop a questionnaire includingthe most relevant aspects identified in this first stage. The second stage was based on aquantitative, correlator design, by gathering data with the adopted questionnaire in the 5sampling areas. The results of administering this questionnaire have made possible theanalysis of statistical relationships among variables.
The qualitative study was developed in the area of the Autonomous Community ofMadrid. It was based on 26 discussion groups of 10 individuals.
The groups were organised dividing the territory in 3 major areas: the capital (intensiveurban area), suburban (semi-urban), and rural. The youngsters were organised indiscussion groups of two different age groups: 15-18 and 19-24. In every group therewere 8 to 10 youngsters, both boys and girls. According to a previously elaboratedguide, the discussion groups were invited to speak about patterns of risk behaviour,reasons for acting in this way, aspects in life that may influence such behaviour (family,school, friends, media), perceived consequences and proposed solutions. Participantswere guaranteed they will remain anonymous. Discussions were taped. The informationcollected was basic to design the questionnaire.
The questionnaire is defined as a psychosocial ad-hoc questionnaire partially based onprevious tested psychometric scales. It has been applied to all sampled subjects, in eachspecific language (including a Catalan version for the Barcelona sample).
The psychometric scales adopted have been:
§ Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI), Coopersmith (1967),
abridged version by Argyle &
§ Family Environment Scale, Moos & Tricket (1974)
: using two sub-scales of the R
("Real") version of the scale: these measuring cohesion
§ The Social Support Appraisals Scale (SS-A), Vaux et al. (1986)
: This scale allows to
calculate a general index of social support.
§ Mastery Scale, Pearlyn & Schooler (1978)
The four main patterns of risk behaviour which have been explored are: rash driving,drug abuse (alcohol, cocaine, design drugs and hallucinogens), risky sexual behaviour,and aggressive-violent behaviour (vandalism, carrying arms, and violentconfrontations). Operational concepts for each pattern of risk behaviour have beendefined. The questionnaire collected information on: socio-demographicalcharacteristics; characteristics of leisure time; risk perceptions; ideologies, values andreligion; self-esteem and mastery; social support; well-being; satisfaction with academicexperience; satisfaction with work; affective situation; family relations; and peers.
The samples were designed so that each one included 15-24 years old youngsters from 3deprived areas, 2 lower-middle class areas, 2 medium areas and 1 affluent area. Alltogether, a total sample of 2,361 youngsters (1126 boys and 1230 girls) was obtained in thesix metropolitan areas (507 in Madrid, 344 in Barcelona, 233 in Amsterdam, 266 in Genoaand 1,011 in Porto). Six risky patterns of behaviour have obtained big enough subsamplesin order to study relations between each risky pattern of behaviour and differentpsychosocial variables, in the different social contexts of each city and its surroundings:risky driving, alcohol consumption, drug consumption, vandalistic behaviour and violentconfrontations. About one of the risky patterns of behaviour, carrying arms, only datafrom two samples have been obtained: Barcelona and Genoa. About another of thepatterns of behaviour, risky sexual behaviour, two of the subsamples were too small(Barcelona and Amsterdam), so results cannot be considered reliable enough for thesetwo geographical areas.
Main research results
After a global analysis of the five samples, the comparative survey results have shownthat there are significant differences in sets of variables, between youngsters whoengage in risk behaviour and those who do not, furthermore such differences are diversein each social context (e.g., in each geographical area).
Nevertheless, some general patterns in the kind of variables that differ in each pattern ofrisk behaviour have identified, and the researchers have also identified some commoncharacteristics in situations where different risky patterns of behaviour appear associated.
First of all, it seems clear that, in all samples, a large cluster of youngsters have pretty goodrelationships with their family, and they feel well integrated into the family dynamics. Thiscluster usually perceives high family cohesion, low family conflict and high social supportfrom family. It is only very seldom that youngsters belonging to this cluster are acting in arisky way, but some clarification is necessary:
First, in this cluster both non-alcohol consumers and occasional or low alcohol consumerscan be found; probably because low alcohol consumption is socially well accepted in thecountries where we have collected samples. It appears that low levels of alcoholconsumption are not related to any family conflict perception, nor is it usually associatedwith any other risky pattern of behaviour.
Those youngsters with risky sexual behaviour and those not do not seem to differ in any oftheir perceptions about family, using the validated psychometric scales integrated into thequestionnaire. This means that this pattern of risk behaviour has very differentcharacteristics, compared to the other patterns of risk behaviour studied. It appears that asmall group of youngsters in this cluster may have occasional violent confrontations withother groups.
A second cluster of youngsters, which have been identified in all samples, is perceivinglower family cohesion and/or higher family conflict than the mean. This cluster iscomposed much more frequently of youngsters with one or more than one pattern of riskbehaviour, including moderate to high alcohol consumption.
Finally, in each sample there is a small cluster of youngsters who are pluri-risky behaving.
In this cluster there are many more violent and vandalistic youngsters than in the formercluster, even if vandalistic behaviour and violent confrontations are not very oftenassociated. Although in this cluster moderate to high alcohol consumers can be found,alcohol consumption is not characteristic of the cluster, because it is composed as well ofnon-alcohol consumers and low alcohol consumers.
It can be concluded that variables related to family perceptions are important factors in theappearance of different patterns of risk behaviour.
In fact, the different scales to measure social support, and particularly the general socialsupport, have shown significant differences between some risky and non-risky patterns ofbehaviour (regular alcohol consumption, drug consumption and violent confrontations) insome of the samples, but not in others. The researchers have observed that for someyoungsters with risky behaviour, it often happens that the perception of family support is"substituted" by the perception of being supported by friends.
Another theoretical construct that has demonstrated a range of significant differencesamong the youngsters with risky behaviour and those not, is psychological well-being.
This phenomenon has been explored with a broad set of variables: satisfaction with schooland with academic experience, with work/job, and with other dimensions of personal life;optimism with life; life satisfaction; and other related topics. Researchers could not use avalidated scale, as in the case of family perception or social support, thus the significantdifferences that have appeared in each sample were complex to explain synthetically andsubsamples of each pattern of risk behaviour were too small to explore more in depth thedifferent responses to each item. However, dissatisfaction with different aspects of
school/academic experience appears clearly to be higher among many youngsters withrisky behaviour.
Among youngsters behaving vandalistically or violently in confrontations, clear differentpatterns of answer in relation to life optimism (how things go in the present, in contrastwith how they went in the past, and how they are expected to go in the next future) havebeen identified, those with risky behaviour being clearly more pessimistic.
A large amount of leisure time available on weekdays, but also at week-ends, also appearsas a factor that may facilitate risk behaviour.
Variables related to self-esteem and mastery, which have been measured withpsychometric scales, have shown they relate to some patterns of risk behaviour, asexpected -on the basis of previous research-, but only in some samples, and not in others.
The youngest group of youngsters in each sample (under 18), in some cities, appear tobehave more frequently vandalistically or in violent confrontations; however, suchdifference does not appear in all samples.
Girls are less often taking part in violent confrontations, carrying arms or behavingvandalistically in all samples, but in all the other patterns of risk behaviour, gender onlyappears to differ significantly in some samples and not in others.
Finally, other variables that occasionally differ significantly between those with riskybehaviour and those not have found in only some of the samples: self-attributed socialclass, income, ideology, religion situation and religion importance, amongst others.
Why are some variables significantly related to some cities and their surroundings and notto others? In fact, we cannot be sure in an initial research; results may be influenced bysampling characteristics, by chance, by biases of the questionnaire (including differentsemantic meaning of the translations), by measuring errors or by a too small size of thesubsamples. But the authors of this research tend to believe that the different socio-culturalmacro-context that each large city represents is probably the most outstanding reason forsuch differences to appear.
Patterns of risk behaviour among youngsters in leisure time appear as a fuzzy cluster offactors: some general factors seem to be always or very often related to and influencingon risky patterns of behaviour, and many other factors seem to be significantly relatedonly to specific social dynamics or contexts.
Risk taking, does not mean an intention of acting illegally. Many patterns of riskbehaviour appear to be related to having too much leisure time available, to perceptionsof lack of good relationship or communication in family life, and to dissatisfaction withdifferent past or present activities. From this situation, youngsters seem to look for newways of having social support (mainly from the group of friends) and to have a social,influential role (to be "somebody" in front of the others, to increase their ownsatisfaction in some way).
Main contribution to the objectives of the Yes for Europe Programme
In order to develop preventive social policies and proactive youth policies both familysituation and the youngsters’ points of view should be taken very much into account. Inthis research it has been observed that most youngsters, for example, consuming drugs,have a very clear idea of the risk of damaging their health, which means they are wellinformed, but they are not able to suffer the social pressure they have from friends.
Social policies should take into account that many risky behaving individuals or groups ofyoungsters need to be empowered in some direction and not to be stigmatised; they need tofeel they have an influential role in a group or in a society, even if they act in a differentway from their peer group. Satisfactory leisure time possibilities, which open networkingpossibilities in the neighbourhood, seem to be a good direction, specially if the youngstersthemselves are involved in the design of new facilities.
On the other hand, it happens that some psychosocial factors are present in severaldifferent patterns of risk behaviour. Those patterns of risk behaviour that start whenyoungsters are very young should be given very special attention, by involving the school,the family and the youngsters themselves. Longitudinal studies of the activities of riskybehaving youngsters at early ages, together with the evaluation of social intervention tochange their situation, would be very helpful to better understand the way differentpsychosocial variables are involved and how to overcome such behaviour.
Developing responsibility in the socialisation process of the youngsters may be a keyconcept. But responsibility must be a key concept not only referred to the youngsters, butalso to the family, and even to school and to society, in relation to the youngsters. Schooldissatisfaction and failure should be followed up in longitudinal researches to better knowboth personal (for youngsters) and social consequences.
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