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Individual and Peer Group Risk Factors
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Rebelliousness (substance abuse, delinquency, and school dropout). Young people who feel they are not a part of society and not bound by its rules, who do not believe in trying to be successful or responsible, or who take an actively rebellious stance toward society are at higher risk of drug abuse, delinquency, and school dropout (Jessor and Jessor, 1977; Kandel, 1982; Bachman, Lloyd, and O'Malley, 1981).

Friends who engage in the problem behaviors (substance abuse, delinquency, violence, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout). Young people who associate with peers who engage in problem behaviors - delinquency, substance abuse, violent activity, sexual activity, or dropping out of school - are much more likely to engage in the same behaviors (Barnes and Welte, 1986; Farrington, 1991; Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Gest, and Gairepy, 1988; Elliott et al., 1989).

This association is one of the most consistent predictors that research has identified. Even when young people come from well-managed families and do not experience other risk factors, just spending time with friends who engage in problem behaviors greatly increases the risk of developing similar problems.

Favorable attitudes toward the problem behavior (substance abuse, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout). During their elementary school years, children usually express anti-drug, anti-crime, and prosocial attitudes, and have difficulty imagining why people use drugs, commit crimes, or drop out of school. In middle school, however, their attitudes often shift toward greater acceptance of delinquency behaviors as others they know participate in such activities. This acceptance places them at higher risk (Kandel et al., 1978; Huesmann and Eron, 1986).

Early initiation of problem behaviors (substance abuse, delinquency, violence, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout). The earlier young people drop out of school, begin using drugs, commit crimes, and become sexually active, the greater the likelihood that they will have chronic problems with these behaviors later in life (Elliot et al., 1986). Research shows, for example, that young people who initiate drug use before the age of 15 are at twice the risk of have drug problems as those adolescents who wait until after the age of 19 (Robins and Przybeck, 1985).

Constitutional factors (substance abuse, delinquency, and violence). Constitutional factors that contribute to problem behaviors may have a biological or physiological basis (Hawkins and Lam, 1987). These factors are often seen in young people exhibiting such behaviors as sensation seeking, low harm-avoidance, and lack of impulse control. These factors appear to increase the risk of young people abusing drugs, engaging in delinquent behavior, and committing violent acts.