Sunday, March 4, 2012

Youth Listen To Youth

While researching some material for a new book, I was reviewing the writings of Nancy Tobler, PhD.  I had become a big fan when I was the Student Assistance Coordinator for our local school district.  She had made a tremendous contribution to the field of prevention with the completion of her meta-analysis of 120 prevention programs available for children and adolescents.  I relied on her findings when making curricular and programming decisions for our students and prevention specialists and much of her writing contributes to what many people refer to as research-based or evidence-based material.

The following statement caught my eye and was new to me; “During adolescence, establishing relationships with peers takes priority over those with adults.  Groups offer support and define reality for adolescents and furnish an excellent opportunity to challenge the almost universal tendency of adolescents to overestimate the extent of drug use among their peers.” 
These two sentences capture the essence of what our student-implemented campaigns are intended to accomplish.  Through custom designed surveys and focus group interactions, the data we collect confirms what Dr. Tobler stated; that teens consistently overestimate the extent of negative behavior of their peers.  When such a misperception exists, teens are more at risk to engage in similar behavior or attitudes because of a second universal tendency, that of wanting to belong and fit in.  When these youth become the collective voice exclaiming that most teen behavior is actually healthier than they presume and market this reality in an edgy and youth-centric fashion, meaningful things can happen.  Youth listen to youth as Dr. Tobler points out. We need to capitalize on this reality. 

1 comment:

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