Promotion as prevention: Positive youth development as protective against tobacco, alcohol, illicit drug, and sex initiation

Seth J. Schwartz, Erin Phelps, Jacqueline V. Lerner, Shi Huang, C. Hendricks Brown, Selva Lewin-Bizan, Yibing Li, Richard M. Lerner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations


The present study was designed to examine the association of positive youth development with the likelihood of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hard drug, and sex initiation between 5th and 10th grades. A national, largely middle-class sample of 5,305 adolescents, participating in a longitudinal study funded by the National 4-H Council (although not all participants were enrolled in 4-H or other after-school programs), completed measures of positive youth development (PYD) constructs and of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and hard drug use once per year between 5th and 10th grades. At the 9th and 10th grade assessments, adolescents were asked whether they had initiated sexual intercourse and, if so, at what age they had first engaged in intercourse. Although the present sample was somewhat lower risk compared to national averages, survival analysis models indicated that PYD was significantly and negatively associated with the initiation hazards for tobacco use, marijuana use, and sex initiation for girls only, and with hard drug use for both genders. PYD was also positively associated with the odds of condom use across genders. Results are discussed with regard to PYD as a preventive process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-211
Number of pages15
JournalApplied Developmental Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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