Self-Schemas and Possible Selves as Predictors and Outcomes of Risky Behaviors in Adolescents

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Abstract

Background:

Although there is extensive evidence that the self-concept changes in many important ways during the adolescent years and that these changes influence behavioral choices, the majority of studies completed to date have been based on a static model in which the self-concept is viewed solely as an antecedent of the risky behaviors.

Objectives:

To investigate the pattern of relationships between three components of the self-concept-the popular, the conventional, and the deviant selves-and risky behaviors in a sample of middle adolescents during their transition from junior high to high school.

Methods:

A sample of 160 adolescents completed questionnaires measuring the content of their self-schemas and possible selves and involvement in four risky behaviors (tobacco and alcohol use, sexual intercourse, poor school performance) during the winter of eighth and ninth grades.

Results:

Popular self-schema score in the eighth grade positively predicted ninth grade risky behaviors. Risky behavior involvement in the eighth grade predicted ninth-grade deviant self-schema and possible self-scores.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that the self-concept may not only play a role in the early stages of engagement in the risky behaviors but may also be one means through which the behaviors become structuralized into potentially enduring aspects of the self.

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