Pittsburgh Researchers Link Mentoring Teens To Fewer Risky Behaviors

Sep 13, 2019

Data from a recent University of Pittsburgh study show that adult support both reduces violence and increases positive behaviors among teen boys in low-income urban neighborhoods.

While the researchers acknowledge that there is a lot of literature to support the positive impact a caring adult can have in the lives of young men, the team wanted to focus on teen boys from lower-resourced urban areas.

“What we were really interested in with this particular study was looking at patterns of violence with a lot more detail than what had been done in previous research … so we could best understand how to leverage those relationships to protect young men from multiple types of violence,” said Alison Culyba, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh.

More than three quarters of the 866 participants in the anonymous survey identified as African American, from 20 Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The survey asked teens to identify if they perpetrated or were the victim of more than 50 violent behaviors including bullying, sexual violence, and gang involvement.

According to the data, youth who reported having high social support engaged in significantly fewer risk behaviors.

Understanding that pattern, according to Culyba, could help those who design programs to think comprehensively to design programs to prevent multiple forms of violence with one program. Often those programs focus on one type of violence like bullying or fighting.

“But our study and other studies show how different forms of violence are really closely linked. By understanding these detailed links between different forms of violence we can better design prevention programs that are broadly protective across multiple forms of violence,” Culyba said.