Washington, DC – Bad habits begun in adolescence often persist into adulthood, yet programs designed to improve teens’ health and safety behaviors are not always effective. Research shows that simply providing information to teens about the dangers of smoking, the benefits of eating right and getting exercise, and the importance of driving safely will not alone change or improve their behaviors. Instead, programs that have been successful in promoting a healthy lifestyle among teens are multifaceted – focusing on social skills and behavior – and aspire to long-term change.
Child Trends reviewed more than 200 of the best research studies on adolescent health and safety to identify specific strategies that prevent teen smoking and encourage exercise, healthy eating and sufficient sleep. The review also looked at ways to prevent car and bicycle injuries and work-related injuries. The findings are summarized in a new research brief, Encouraging Teens to Adopt a Safe, Healthy Lifestyle: A Foundation for Improving Future Adult Behaviors. An accompanying Web-based What Works table presents the results of evaluations of a variety of strategies to promote healthy and safe behaviors among teens. The findings are based on an extensive review of research studies done in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“Simply providing information to teens on smoking, nutrition or drinking and driving is not usually sufficient to change behavior,” said Kristin Moore, president of Child Trends. “To be more effective, programs need strategies that produce lasting changes and address needs beyond just information. For instance, teaching teens ways to resist peer pressure and engaging youth in positive activities are two strategies that research indicates can improve teens’ health and safety behaviors.”
The brief was released today along with a companion Web-based What Works table that enables users to easily find “what works,” “what doesn’t work,” and some “best bets” to encourage safe and healthy behaviors among adolescents.
Child Trends’ American Teens series summarizes and “translates” key research and evaluation studies on preventing teen pregnancy, encouraging better eating and exercise habits, promoting mental and emotional health, motivating teens in school, promoting positive social skills and encouraging responsible citizenship.
Knight Foundation’s Community Partners Program works in 26 U.S. communities to identify promising approaches to locally identified needs. With Knight funding, several Knight communities are concentrating on better lives for children and families. The Child Trends American Teens work helps the communities better identify strategies that might work locally for at-risk youth.
Child Trends, founded in 1979, is an independent, nonpartisan research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by conducting research and providing science-based information to the public and decision-makers.