Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Cheryl Somers


An important aspect of human development is adolescence. It has been well documented that adolescence is a time during which individuals partake in the greatest amount of risk-taking behaviors. These behaviors often include having unsafe sex, drug and alcohol use, smoking and recklessness. On the other hand, goal oriented behaviors are also developing, although these have been less well studied. The current study explored several key contexts that adolescents are concurrently exposed to, including parenting behaviors, peer relationships, religion, and media. The outcomes of interest were risk-taking behaviors and goal-oriented behaviors. Ultimately the purpose of this study was to compile, through a multifactor model, the major predictors of adolescent behavior in one comprehensive study, and examine their individual and combined contributions to not only risk-taking behavior but also goal-oriented behavior.

The participants in this study were 323 ninth through twelfth grade high school students (175 males and 148 females) from a suburban public high school district in the midwestern United States. Students' ages range from 14 to 19 (mean = 13.5). The majority of the participants identified themselves as either Caucasian or Middle Eastern, though African-American and Hispanic groups were also included. In addition to a demographic survey, all participants also completed measures of the following constructs: Risk-taking behaviors, goal-oriented behaviors (measured by overall grades and overall involvement in extracurricular activities), parental demandingness and responsiveness, involvement, communication, and monitoring, peer engagement in risk-taking behaviors and goal-oriented behaviors, adolescents' media consumption, and adolescents' religiosity. All measures were taken from adolescents' perspectives.

Multivariate linear regression analyses were conducted using the variables from the four life contexts as predictors and risk taking and goal oriented behavior as criterion variables. combine prior and next sections. The results showed several themes, including that a significant proportion of variance in risk-taking behavior and goal-oriented behavior was explained by several variables. For example, risk-taking behaviors in adolescents was positively associated with paternal demandingness, maternal involvement, and paternal communication and negatively associated with maternal communication and maternal demandingness. Goal-oriented behavior was positively associated with parental monitoring, maternal responsiveness, paternal demandingness and was negatively associated with maternal communication. Paternal involvement and paternal responsiveness did not yield significant results. Adolescents who associated with more risk-taking peers were positively associated with each risk-taking construct. Goal-oriented peers were positively associated with risk-taking behaviors. Results indicated that adolescents who are associated with goal-oriented peers were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities. Religious attendance, involvement, and importance were not associated with any risk-taking behaviors. Adolescents who reported more religious involvement reported more extracurricular involvement. However, there was no association among religious involvement and academic grades. The more television viewed per week the more adolescents participated in risk-taking behaviors. Risk-taking behaviors were negatively associated with hours spent reading magazines per week. Greater total media usage per week was negatively associated with reckless behaviors and positively associated with academic success.

Taken together, these results indicate that multiple environmental factors are impacting adolescents' decision making and behaviors at anyone time. The results indicated adolescents receive messages from a variety of variables such as parenting, peers, and media. It is important to study adolescent behaviors not from one environmental variable at a time but to consider multiple environmental variables.