Participation in Organized Activities Protects Against Adolescents’ Risky Substance Use, Even Beyond Development in Conscientiousness
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Adolescents are at a significant risk for binge drinking and illicit drug use. One way to protect against these behaviors is through participation in extracurricular activities. However, there is a debate about whether highly conscientious adolescents are more likely to participate in activities, which raises the concern of a confound. To disentangle these relationships, we tested the latent trajectories of substance use and personality across 3 years, with participation in activities and sports as time-varying predictors. We surveyed 687 adolescents (55 % female, 85.4 % Caucasian) in Western Australia schools across 3 years. At Time 1, the students were in Year 10 1 (mean age 15 years). The results showed that participation in activities and conscientiousness are related, but each uniquely predicts slower growth in substance use. Across waves, participation in activities predicted less risky substance use a year later, over and above conscientiousness development. These results suggest that there may be unique benefits of participation in activities that protect against risky substance use.
KeywordsBinge drinking Substance use Risk behavior Extracurricular activities Conscientiousness Personality development
We would like to thank the high school principals, their staff, and the students who participated in the Youth Activity Participation Survey of Western Australia. We are grateful to Helen Davis for help in survey development, particularly in the selection of the personality items. We also would like to thank Bree Abbott and Corey Blomfield Neira for their intellectual input and vital support in establishing the YAPS study, and everyone else in the YAPS-WA team for their hard work over the years.
The Youth Activity Participation Study of Western Australia has been funded by Grants under Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme: DP0774125 and DP1095791 to Bonnie Barber and Jacquelynne Eccles, and DP130104670 to Bonnie Barber, Kathryn Modecki, and Jacquelynne Eccles. Portions of this research also were funded by a grant from the Australian Institute of Criminology through the Criminology Research Grants Program to Kathryn Modecki, Bonnie Barber, and Wayne Osgood. The views expressed are the responsibility of the authors and are not necessarily those of the AIC.
K.O.M. conceived of the study, participated in the coordination of the study, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript. K.L.M. also participated in the conception of the study, consulted on data analysis and interpretation of results, and helped to draft the manuscript. B.B. conceived of the longitudinal project, participated in the design of the study, interpretation of the data, and writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflicts of interest
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
All YAPS-WA personnel acted in compliance with the approved ethical standards and procedures.
This study was approved by the Murdoch University Human Research Ethics Committee and Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee. This research was also approved by the Western Australian Department of Education and the Catholic Education Office to conduct research at the schools.
We received informed consent from both the parents and the students prior to participation.
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