Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Adolescents engage in many risk-taking behaviors, and these behaviors have significant potential for adverse medical and social outcomes. Risk taking among adolescents may or may not be deliberate. One theory of problem behavior suggests that alcohol use, drug use, delinquency, and sexual intercourse constitute a syndrome of deviate behaviors preceded by a psychosocial pattern of conventional attitudes. Because adolescence is a period of life characterized by constant change, rapid physical growth, emotional turmoil, and parental conflict, there are tendencies to experiment, seek independence, and indulge in adult privileges without the responsibilities.

Research suggests a direc relationship between risktaking and sexual behaviors. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between self-reported risk behaviors and sexual behaviors in male and female 11th and 12th grade students in North Dakota High Schools. The sample population consisted of 7699 participants (3945 males and 3741 females); the majority of respondents were Caucasian (91.3%).

Five independent and two dependent variables were identified through the use of factor analysis. The independent variables were the use of soft drugs, hard drugs, unhealthy lifestyle practices, acting out behaviors, and suicidal behaviors. The dependent variables were sexual activity and promiscuity. Canonical correlation was used to calculate the relationships between the independent and dependent variables. Multiple stepwise forward regression identified the predictors of sexual behaviors.

The highest predictor for explaining sexual behaviors (sexual activity and promiscuity) was the use of soft drugs (alcohol use, smoking, and chewing tobacco). The second best predictor of sexual activity was acting out behaviors (motorcycle, weapon, and seatbelt use), whereas the use of hard drugs (crack, cocaine, and marijuana) predicted behaviors associated with promiscuity.

Overall, self-reported risk behaviors and sexual behaviors in this adolescent population were significantly related. Underlying variables such as the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, nutrition, exercise, violence, and suicide contributed to factors which predicted sexual behaviors in North Dakota adolescents.