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Self-esteem and future orientation predict risk engagement among adolescents




Jackman, Danielle M., author
MacPhee, David, advisor
Le, Thao, committee member
Aloise-Young, Patricia, committee member

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Risky behaviors have been defined as the balance between behaviors that have negative consequences with behaviors that have perceived positive consequences (Gullone & Moore, 2000). These risky behaviors include but are not limited to: unsafe sex, delinquency, substance abuse, and impulsive or sensation- seeking (Gullone & Moore, 2000). Research has shown that having a positive outlook on one's future has an inverse relation to adolescents' risk behaviors (Nurmi, 1990; Steinberg, 2004, 2009). Similarly, studies on self-esteem have also shown a complex but mostly inverse relation with adolescent risk taking (Salazar et al., 2005). However, there is a paucity of research studies focused on the possible effects of self-esteem as a mediator between future orientation and adolescents' risk orientation and or the possible effects of future orientation as a mediator between self-esteem and risk orientation. The premise of this study was to assess the relations among future orientation, self-esteem, and adolescents' risk behaviors. To that end the first hypothesis was that there is an inverse relation between future orientation and adolescents' risk orientation. The second hypothesis was that there is an inverse relation between self-esteem and adolescents' risk orientation. The third hypothesis was that a more optimistic sense of future among young adolescents is associated with higher self-esteem. Two mediational models were also compared. Participants (N = 438) were youth who took part in a sex prevention program called Care To Wait. Controlling for social desirability, results showed that future orientation fully mediated the relation between self-esteem and risk orientation, and self-esteem partially mediated the relation between future orientation and risk orientation. Implications and proposed future directions discussed.


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future orientation
positive youth development
risk behaviors
risk engagement


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