Adolescent Self-Report on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2009)


Government legislation and policy is set to target youth who engage in risky behaviors such as illegal drug and alcohol use, unprotected sex, and unhealthy weight-loss practices, using surveys like the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the Monitoring the Future Survey. Teens have a tendency to retract statements about their risky behavior, making reports about their behavior inaccurate and the policy used to target this group inadequate. In this study, researchers use a 72-question survey, asked in two-week intervals, to examine teens’ risky behavior. This survey is formatted to be a more reliable measure of adolescent behavior, taking into consideration their inconsistencies when self-reporting risk behaviors.

  • “Inconsistent reports may also carry information on adolescents’ beliefs about the identity salience of their behaviors, including which behaviors they see as most central to their identities. Respondents are likely to inaccurately report behavior that conflicts with their identities or values, and beliefs.” (Rosenbaum, 2009, p. 1389)
  • “In a 2-week period, adolescents’ reports of their sex, drug, alcohol, and tobacco histories were more reliable than their reports of other behaviors; by contrast, in longer intervals, these behaviors were reported much less reliably than other behaviors.” (Rosenbaum, 2009, p. 1394)
  • “Survey report consistency may be connected to adolescents’ identities. In short periods, adolescents present their sex and substance use consistently, but, in long periods, adolescents may change their social affiliations and these behaviors and thus report inconsistently.” (Rosenbaum, 2009, p. 1395)

Citation: Rosenbaum, J.E. (2009). Truth or consequence: The intertemporal consistency of adolescent self-report on the youth risk behavior survey. American Journal of Epidemiology. Vol. 169., No. 11., 1388-1397

Link to article.

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