Anticipating Early Fatality: Friends’, Schoolmates’ and Individual Perceptions of Fatality on Adolescent Risk Behaviors
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Past research indicates that anticipating adverse outcomes, such as early death (fatalism), is associated positively with adolescents’ likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. Health researchers and criminologists have argued that fatalism influences present risk taking in part by informing individuals’ motivation for delaying gratification for the promise of future benefits. While past findings highlight the association between the anticipation of early death and a number of developmental outcomes, no known research has assessed the impact of location in a context characterized by high perceptions of fatality. Using data from Add Health and a sample of 9,584 adolescents (51 % female and 71 % white) nested in 113 schools, our study builds upon prior research by examining the association between friends’, school mates’, and individual perceptions of early fatality and adolescent risk behaviors. We test whether friends’ anticipation of being killed prior to age 21 or location in a school where a high proportion of the student body subscribes to attitudes of high fatality, is associated with risky behaviors. Results indicate that friends’ fatalism is positively associated with engaging in violent delinquency, non-violent delinquency, and drug use after controlling for individual covariates and prior individual risk-taking. Although friends’ delinquency accounts for much of the effect of friends’ fatalism on violence, none of the potential intervening variables fully explain the effect of friends’ fatalism on youth involvement in non-violent delinquency and drug use. Our results underscore the importance of friendship contextual effects in shaping adolescent risk-taking behavior and the very serious consequences perceptions of fatality have for adolescents’ involvement in delinquency and drug use.
KeywordsFatalism Friendship Adolescent risky behavior
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