All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Laura Talbott-Forbes

Advisory Committee Members

David W Coombs

Retta R Evans

Connie L Kohler

James B Weaver Iii

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2014

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education

Abstract

Although the majority of adolescents in the United States are considered healthy, they continue to engage in a myriad of health risk behaviors that may manifest into adulthood. The prevalence of adolescent health risks is well documented. Prosocial behaviors (i.e., community service, volunteerism) may contribute to reducing risky health behaviors among adolescents, but this connection has yet to be solidified. Previous research has suggested that volunteerism may have beneficial and developmental outcomes for adolescents. However, the relationship between adolescent community service participation and improved physical health outcomes has not been fully explored. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between community service participation and physical health behaviors among Massachusetts high school students. Study data were obtained from a state-wide representative sample of high school students (grades 9th through 12th) who participated in the 2009 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MYRBS). The MYRBS is conducted biannually by the Massachusetts Department of Education with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The theoretical basis for this study was derived from two well-documented theories that have been previously applied to adolescent behavior. Constructs from the Social Cognitive and Problem Behavior theories were used to inform the conceptual framework of this study. A secondary data analysis of the 2009 MYRBS was used to explore the relationship between community service participation and health behaviors among adolescents. Regression models were constructed to examine the impact of youth volunteerism upon health behaviors and related covariates. Given limited prior research, exploring the role of adolescent community service participation and health behaviors provided an opportunity to better understand one aspect of positive youth development as a viable prevention strategy for addressing negative health behaviors, such as tobacco, alcohol and drug use or sexual behavior. Study findings support previous studies that have suggested that adolescents who engage in community service were less likely to engage in risky health behaviors. These results constituted an initial step toward understanding community service participation and its impact on risky health behaviors among adolescents. However, results were based on a single geographically limited sample and should be interpreted with caution.

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