Purpose: To explore the relative likelihood of engaging in new health-endangering behaviors among a group of resilient early adolescents compared to a sample of nonresilient peers and a sample of normal, low-risk peers in a nonclinical, school-based setting.
Methods: Resilient adolescents and their peer groups were identified by way of a multiple linear regression equation in which age, family structure (single or step-parent family), gender, self-injurious behaviors, and emotional risk were used to predict propensity to initiate risky health behaviors. The resilient sample consisted of those adolescents who were predicted to be above the standardized mean, yet actually scored below it. The nonresilient population included those who were predicted to and actually scored above the standardized mean. The normal, low-risk population consists of adolescents who were predicted to and scored below the standardized mean. The mean age for all populations was 13.78 years. All students completed a Health Behavior Questionnaire and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory.
Results: Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals revealed that in the year following identification as resilient, nonresilient, or normal, the resilient adolescents were less likely than the nonresilient adolescents to initiate a variety of risky behaviors. At the same time, the resilient adolescents were more likely than their normal, not at-risk peers to have initiated those same risky behaviors. The resilient adolescents have modestly higher mean self-esteem than the nonresilient peers (t = 2.47, p < 0.05) but lower self-esteem than their normal, not at-risk peers (t = 3.66, p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Determination of resilience status by way of multiple linear regression yielded identifiable groups which conformed to expected elevated risk of initiating new risky behaviors relative to normal, not at-risk peers but lowered risk relative to nonresilient peers. Differences were most notable with reference to new reports of substance use. The lower rate of initiating new risky behaviors among resilient relative to nonresilient peers is seen as a reflection of behavioral competence in an adverse context. However, the elevated rate of initiating new risky behaviors among resilient relative to normal, not at-risk peers is seen as a reflection of the continuing, negative impact of that adverse context.