A TALE OF TWO CITIES

HEALTH-COMPROMISING BEHAVIORS BETWEEN HUNGARIAN AND AMERICAN YOUTH

Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, B. Pikó, Darlene R. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adolescents, because of the unique developmental stage they occupy, are particularly sensitive to their socio-cultural environment. Adolescents often define behaviors in light of prevailing attitudes, values, and norms (i.e. culture) established across primary social domains. Specifically, overarching social structures (e.g. economic, political, religious, etc.), working through the local landscape (e.g. neighborhood, school, peer networks, and family), play a vital role in shaping adolescent development and influencing psychological, behavioral, and social outcomes (Arnett & Arnett-Jensen, 1994; Greenberger et al., 2000; Grob et al., 1996; McArdle et al., 2000). For youth, definitions of normative behavior vary, yet socio-cultural context continues to be important in defining who they are and what they do. Culture defines accepted standards of behavior, lifestyles, and life chances. As such, socio-cultural influences have been particularly strong predictors of health-compromising behaviors for this population subgroup (Fitzpatrick, 1997; Fitzpatrick & LaGory, 2000; Gibbons et al., 1995; Graham et al., 1991). During adolescence, changes in social networks, a push for independence, increased substance abuse and sexual activity, and heightened aggression have common markers of developmental progression towards adulthood (Baer & Bray, 1999; Piko, 1998, 2001). Recent research suggests that because health-compromising behavior may be influenced by specific societal circumstances, cross-cultural comparisons of youth may allow a better understanding of the complex relationship between context and behavior. In addition, such comparisons allow us to consider which has the greater impact on youth's health-compromising behavior: the broader socio-cultural environment or the specific developmental concept of risk, which is more or less independent of culture (Arnett & Arnett-Jensen, 1994; Grob et al., 1996; Schneider, 1998). In this way, culture, or learned beliefs and practices, manifests itself via social mechanisms that either reinforce or sanction behaviors. Peers, parents, and teachers all influence how these behaviors are defined and redefined by an adolescent. Differences in parenting styles, family structure, parental attitudes, and peer relations have been noted in previous studies as important determinants of health-compromising behavior among youth (Arnett & Arnett-Jensen, 1994; Fitzpatrick & LaGory, 2000; Grob et al., 1996; McCardle et al., 2000). Whether American or not, adolescents engage in such behaviors, in part, as a function of both individual attributes and a varied set of socio-cultural factors such as those discussed earlier. Cultural differences (e.g. beliefs about smoking and drinking; risk perception; values, norms, and social acceptance of certain behaviors) clearly influence health-compromising behaviors (Gibbons et al., 1995; Johnson & Johnson, 1999; McArdle et al., 2000). Understanding the role that risk factors play in predicting such behavior, as well as identifying which protective factors help mediate risk, has been a crucial aspect of worldwide health promotion for adolescents in the 20th century. Not specific to any culture but rather to youth in general, risk and protective factors have become a salient combination for examining cross-cultural differences in health-compromising behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-212
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Studies of Children and Youth
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005

Fingerprint

health behavior
adolescent
cultural difference
Social Norms and Values
intercultural comparison
parenting style
sociocultural factors
value-orientation
family structure
sanction
health promotion
social structure
substance abuse
adulthood
aggression
adolescence
smoking
social network
parents
acceptance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

A TALE OF TWO CITIES : HEALTH-COMPROMISING BEHAVIORS BETWEEN HUNGARIAN AND AMERICAN YOUTH. / Fitzpatrick, Kevin M.; Pikó, B.; Wright, Darlene R.

In: Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 10, 04.2005, p. 189-212.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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