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Youth Risk Behaviors, the Difference Between Boys and Girls

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The latest study published in June 2012, showed that high school students in the United States had significant progress over the past two decades in improving many youth risk behaviors associated with the leading cause of death in their age group, car crashes. More teens are buckling up and less are drinking and driving. But, the new practice of talking or texting on their cell phones is adding to the youth death rate. Technology has also brought new risks with it in the area of bullying as one in six teens reported being bullied through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting during the past 12 months. Marijuana drug use is up and is used by teens of both sexes more frequently then smoking cigarettes. The report with all youth risk behaviors listed can be found here, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Selected 2011 National Health Risk Behaviors and Health Outcomes by Sex. It is a worry for parents that too many high school students nationwide continue to practice behaviors that place them at risk for serious health problems. Parents should be aware that there are certain risk behaviors which are more likely to be found among male students than female students. According to the report boys are:

  • rarely or never wearing seat belts;
  • rarely or never wearing motorcycle helmets;
  • being injured while exercising, playing sports, or being physically active;
  • driving after drinking alcohol;
  • weapon carrying;
  • gun carrying;
  • participating and being injured in a physical fight;
  • weapon carrying on school property;
  • being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property;
  • being in a physical fight on school property;
  • current smokeless tobacco use;
  • current cigar use;
  • episodic heavy drinking;
  • lifetime and current marijuana use;
  • current cocaine use;
  • lifetime heroin, illegal steroid, and injected drug use;
  • initiating cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use before age 13 years;
  • smokeless tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use on school property, sometimes referred to with the numbers 420;
  • being offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property;
  • initiating sexual intercourse before age 13 years old;
  • having had >4 sex partners during their lifetime;
  • alcohol or drug use at last sexual intercourse;
  • their partner not using birth control pills before last sexual intercourse; and
  • being at risk for overweight and being overweight.

In contrast, female students were more likely than male students to report:

  • being forced to have sexual intercourse;
  • feeling sad or hopeless;
  • suicide-related behaviors;
  • their partner not using a condom at last sexual intercourse;
  • drinking <3 glasses/day of milk;
  • fasting to lose weight or control weight gain;
  • taking diet pills, powders, or liquids to lose weight or control weight gain;
  • taking laxatives or vomiting to lose weight or control weight gain;
  • not participating in vigorous or moderate physical activity;
  • not participating in strengthening exercises; and
  • not participating on sports teams.
For more information on specific youth risk behaviors, visit these resources:

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How do I Know if My Teen is Engaging in Self-Harm?
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Dealing With a Defiant Teen Who Runs Away
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School Problems
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Parent's Guide to Teen Depression
Parents, if your think your teen may have depression or you know that your teen has depression, this guide will help you understand the problems facing your teen and give you advice on what to do.

Survive Your Troubled Teen 5 Day Online Parenting Class
Learn how to respond successfully and survive raising a struggling teen with our online parenting class Learn to Survive Your Troubled Teen in 5 Days.

Parenting Troubled Teens

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All Parenting Troubled Teens Resources

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