Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pacific B/C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Introduction: Risk behaviors, such as aggression, substance use, and delinquency, increase during adolescence. Researchers suggest, however, that youth who feel as though they matter to specific others in their lives (i.e., interpersonal mattering) and believe they are important to society as a whole and that their thoughts and actions are valued by society (i.e., societal mattering) are less likely to engage in risk behaviors (Elliott, 2009; Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981). Yet, few researchers have examined the mechanisms through which interpersonal and societal mattering prevent youth from engaging in risk behaviors, and this is particularly true for adolescents living in rural areas. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial for the development of effective interventions to prevent youth risk behavior. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test a mediation model that links interpersonal mattering and societal mattering to youth risk behavior through self-regulation and civic engagement, respectively. Methods: Cross-sectional data from a sample of 381 youth (50.4% male; Mage=13.35, SD =.91) in grades 6-8 recruited from two rural school districts in the Midwest were used in this analysis. Participants self-reported demographic information, frequency of violent and delinquent behavior, substance use, perceptions of interpersonal and societal mattering, self-regulation skills, and involvement in civic activities. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test our hypotheses. To test the indirect effects, we used bootstrapping with 500 samples. Results: Our findings indicated a significant indirect effect from interpersonal mattering to risk behavior in that greater perceptions of interpersonal mattering are associated with increased self-regulation (b=.64, SE=.05, p< .001) and, in turn, less involvement in risk behavior (b=-.42, SE=.06, p< .001; indirect effect:b=-.27, SE =.05, p< .001, 95% CI=[-.42, -.19]). Additionally, we found a significant indirect effect between societal mattering and risk behavior through civic engagement (b=-.05, SE=.03, p=.04, 95% CI=[-.12, -.004]). Specifically, greater perceptions of societal mattering were associated with greater civic engagement (b=.49, SE=.05, p< .001), and civic engagement was associated with less risk behavior (b= -.10, SE=.06, p< .05). Conclusions: Overall, our results support the idea that when youth believe they matter to specific people and to society more broadly, they are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as civic engagement, and avoid engaging in negative behaviors by improving their behavioral self-regulation. Our results highlight the importance of developing programs to enhance youths’ perceptions of mattering, promote civic engagement, and improve self-regulation skills in an effort to prevent risk behavior.