The development of a theoretically derived model of decision-making to understand variation in youth attitudes towards risk behavior and educational investments provides a basis for explaining behavior as well as informing social programs that offer support mechanisms for at-risk youth. A productive framework for achieving this goal combines aspects of life history theory, as applied in Human Behavioral Ecology (HBE), and attachment theory from developmental psychology to make predictions about why some kids take risks and devalue the future while others do not. This model addresses pathways by which family environmental stressors are internalized by affective, cognitive and psychobiological mechanisms and mediated by the coping mechanisms of role models and cultural identity. The model predicts that greater uncertainty in the family environment will be associated with variation in the attachment relationship between youths and their primary care-givers, time perspective, expected lifespan, and psychosocial stress, as measured by salivary Cortisol. In turn, internalizing of environmental uncertainty is expected to be associated with attitudes towards risk behaviors and investments in education. The results of a study done in collaboration with 104 Native American youths from the Passamaquoddy tribe support the model: greater uncertainty in the family environment was associated with more problems with attachment, higher scores on present time perspective, lower scores on future time perspective and shorter expected lifespan. Further, internalizing mechanisms significantly predicted attitudes towards risk and education: lower scores on future time perspective and higher Cortisol predicted higher scores on risk attitudes, while higher scores on future time perspective and lower scores on problems with attachment predicted higher self-rated school performance. For coping mechanisms, role models and cultural identity mediated the outcomes of attitudes towards risk behavior and education. Youth who chose role models based on feelings of security had fewer problems with attachment, lower scores on risk attitudes, and higher scores on self-rated school performance than youth who chose role models based on feelings of insecurity. Finally, cultural identity, as measured by participation in cultural activities and Native American ethnic identity, was shown to be negatively associated with youth attitudes towards risk.
|Advisor:||Leonetti, Donna l.|
|School:||University of Washington|
|School Location:||United States -- Washington|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Physical anthropology, Developmental psychology, Native American studies|
|Keywords:||Attachment, Coping, Cultural identity, Human behavioral ecology, Life history theory, Passamaquoddy, Risk behavior, Role models, Stress|
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