From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 1, Number 52 - March 28, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Is your child at risk?

by Cat Urbigkit

Is your child at risk

Surveys of students in the countyís two school districts indicate students are at different levels of risk for alcohol or drug use dependent upon what end of the county they live.

Generally, nearly three times as many Big Piney High School seniors have used chewing tobacco within the last 30 days than the state average, and a whopping 22 percent of eighth graders reported heavy use of alcohol. In addition, more than half the BPHS seniors used alcohol within 30 days prior to the survey.

On the other end of the county, more than 71 percent of Pinedale High School seniors reported using alcohol within the past 30 days, which is substantially higher than the state average of 48 percent. A full 65 percent of Pinedale-area eighth graders reported having consumed alcohol within their lifetimes (13 percent higher than the state average). High levels of binge drinking were reported for PHSís 10th and 12th graders as well.

The survey results, prepared for the State Department of Health, Substance Abuse Division, are compiled in a document entitled "Prevention Needs Assessment Survey Results for 2001."

Nearly 20,000 Wyoming students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 were surveyed last October to assess adolescent substance use, anti-social behavior, school safety, and the risk and protective factors that predict youth problem behaviors. A total of 171 students from Sublette County School District No. 9 (No. 9) participated, along with 169 students from Sublette County School District No. 1 (No. 1).

Risk Factors

The survey also examined risk factors, which are defined as characteristics of school, community and family environments, as well as characteristics of students and their peer groups, that are known to predict increased likelihood of drug use, delinquency, school dropout, teen pregnancy and violent behavior among youth.

Many of No. 1ís students have identified sensation seeking as a reason for their risky behavior, especially at the younger grade levels. But by the time they are seniors, the students indicated high-risk factors to include peer rewards for anti-social behavior, early initiation of drug use, and that their parents have favorable attitudes toward drug use and anti-social behavior. Survey results for all these factors were substantially higher than the state averages or the seven-state norm.

No. 9ís students also tried these risky behaviors in part because of sensation seeking. Sixth-graders in No. 9 reported low levels of risk in factors involving their families Ė in fact, these levels were below both the state and seven-state norms. No. 9ís eight graders reported a high level (60 percent) of availability of handguns. Handgun availability is related to a higher risk of crime and substance abuse by adolescents, according to the survey document. More than 60 percent of 10th-graders reported that local laws and norms in their communities favor drug use, while 50 percent of these students reported a family history of antisocial behavior.

BPHS seniors, like their younger counterparts and their colleagues in the other school district, reported a high perception of the availability of handguns. Nearly 60 percent of BPHS seniors reported parent attitudes favoring drug use. A similar number of students reported interaction with anti-social peers.

Protective measures

Protective measures are included in the survey. These are factors that exert a positive influence or buffer against the negative influence of risk, and include social bonding to family, school, community, and peers; healthy beliefs and clear standards for behavior; and individual characteristics. No. 1ís sixth graders reported high levels of family attachment and pro-social involvement, but their "belief in the moral order"(defined as having a belief in what is right and wrong) was less than the state average, although higher than the seven-state norm.

No. 1ís eighth graders reported low levels (below both state average and seven-state norm) of community or school rewards for pro-social involvement, although their families received higher marks in these areas. Religiosity, which is defined as youth who regularly attend religious services, is low in No. 1ís eighth graders as well, at about 45 percent, although their belief in the moral order stands at about 76 percent.

No . 1ís 10th graders reported high levels of community opportunities for pro-social involvement, but low levels of individual social skills.

Only 48 percent of PHS seniors indicated a belief in the moral order, which is substantially lower than the state and seven-state averages of about 56 percent. These same seniors reported high levels of opportunities for pro-social involvement at the community level.

No. 9ís sixth graders reported high levels of protective measures involving their families. A lower percentage was registered for school rewards for pro-social involvement. Less than 60 percent of these 6th graders reported religiosity.

No. 9ís eighth graders reported high levels of opportunities for pro-social involvement in school, but a low level of reward for that behavior. Religiosity was reported as 52 percent for these Big Piney-area 10th-grade students, which is slightly below the state average.

BPHS 10th graders had high marks for all protective measures involving their families, but low percentages for peer/individual factors involving religiosity and social skills. Nearly 82 percent of BPHS 10th-grade students indicated a belief in the social order.

BPHS seniors had very high marks for measures involving their families as well, and 88 percent reported favorably to religiosity, although less than 55 percent reported a belief in the moral order.

Both school districts in the county, as well as various agencies and organizations, are expected to use the survey results in designing and implementing prevention programs to allow our countyís young people to develop healthy and productive lives.

According to the document, "if the percentage of students in your community engaging in a problem behavior is significantly higher than the state average, it is most likely that an intervention is needed."

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