This study examined the health concerns and behaviors of 563 adolescents (aged 11 through 14) from a variety of social, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Behaviors associated with adolescent morbidity and mortality were examined, including sexual behavior, substance use, and injury-related behaviors. Although young adolescents are often viewed as unlikely participants in these risk behaviors, the results of this study suggest that greater attention should be paid to this younger group and their health-risk behaviors. A majority of the sample had tried alcohol and tobacco, and almost a third had used marijuana. Twenty-one percent were sexually active. Prevalence rates varied by social class, race-ethnicity, gender, and age. More than 75% of the sample had visited a physician during the prior year, suggesting an important role physicians may serve as sources of information and positive role models for these young adolescents. The results suggest that we stop viewing young adolescents as naive children and begin to view them as observers of and participants in a changing social environment that has important implications for their current and future health status. Without a realistic appraisal of the young adolescent, we can expect to have little overall effect on the status of adolescent health in the United States.
- Received December 10, 1990.
- Accepted February 26, 1991.
- Copyright © 1992 by the American Academy of Pediatrics