BOSTON,Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Teens who identify at least one influential,"natural" mentor in their life -- a person not assigned by a formalmentoring program -- report that they have a higher sense of self andare more likely to take risks that affect their lives positively, saysnew data released today from the 2006 SADD (Students AgainstDestructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual seventh annual Teens Todaystudy.Inthe study, 46 percent of teens with a mentor reported a high sense ofself versus 25 percent of teens who did not identify a natural mentorin their life. Additionally, teens with mentors reported that they aresignificantly more likely than teens without mentors to challengethemselves by taking positive risks (38 percent versus 28 percent),such as joining an athletic team or volunteering to perform communityservice. Notably, more than half of teens (56 percent) say the absenceof a mentor would negatively affect them.Naturalmentoring occurs outside of a formal mentoring program that may matchteens with a dedicated mentor. Natural mentors can include familymembers (such as parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents), otheradults (such as teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, neighbors,clergy) and peers -- people who may have opportunities for interactionwith some frequency.Inone of the first concentrated studies on natural mentoring, more than3,300 middle school and high school teens across the country weresurveyed.Thestudy also reveals that the breadth and depth of mentoring -- thenumber of mentors teens have or the range of topics teens can discusswith a mentor -- significantly influences decisions teens make arounddrinking, drug use, and sex."Thisnew research demonstrates that there are a whole host of opportunitiesfor adults to influence teenagers outside of formal or plannedmentoring programs," said Stephen Wallace, the chairman and chiefexecutive officer of the national SADD organization who also has broadexperience as a school psychologist and adolescent counselor. "We seethis research as a call to action to adults who interact with teenagers-- either in their professions or in their daily routines. Thisresearch shows that adults who make extra efforts to connect withteenagers can have a profound impact in guiding our nation's youth."Teens' Sense of Self Higher With MentorAccordingto the study, 35 percent of teens with no mentor have a low sense ofself (versus 12 percent of mentored teens). Teens Today researchidentifies sense of self as teens' self-evaluation on their progress inthree key developmental areas: identity formation, independence, andpeer relationships. High sense-of-self teens feel more positive abouttheir own identity, growing independence, and relationships with peersthan do teens with a low sense of self. They are also more likely toavoid alcohol and drug use. Teens struggling with those developmentalareas, on the other hand, are more likely to drink, to use drugs suchas ecstasy and cocaine, and to cite boredom and depression as reasonsto have sex. They also note a greater susceptibility to peer pressurewhen making choices.Additionally,teens with mentors are significantly more likely than those withoutmentors to also report frequently feeling happy (94 percent versus 86percent) and less likely to report regularly feeling depressed (24percent versus 31 percent) or bored (66 percent versus 75 percent).Mentoring Influences Positive Risk-Taking BehaviorThestudy reports that teens with no mentors are significantly more likelyto shy away from positive risk-taking than are their mentored peers (51percent versus 31 percent).EarlierTeens Today data reveals that teens who take positive risks (RiskSeekers) in their lives, their schools, and their communities are 20percent more likely than teens who do not take positive risks (RiskAvoiders) to avoid alcohol and other drugs and 42 percent more likelyto avoid drinking because of concerns about academic performance. Manyof these teens are also more inclined to delay intimate sexual behavior.Breadth and Depth of Mentoring Has Bearing on Teen Decisions Around Drinking, Drugs and SexThebreadth and depth of the mentoring a young person receives alsocorrelates strongly with decision-making. For example, teens who reporthigh levels of mentoring -- those who can talk with a variety of peopleabout a wide range of topics -- are significantly less likely thanthose who report low levels of mentoring to have driven a car under theinfluence of alcohol (13 percent versus 26 percent). And, among thoseteens who have reported using alcohol or marijuana, those with highlevels of mentoring said initiation of such behavior was significantlylater than did teens with no or low levels of mentoring.Additionally,those with a high level of mentoring took more positive risks (48percent versus 29 percent), reported a higher sense of self (59 percentversus 36 percent), and reported lower levels of depression (21 percentversus 26 percent).Whom Do Teens Look to as Mentors?TheTeens Today report reveals that teens rank family members, friends,teachers, counselors, and coaches among the most influential people intheir lives. The characteristics young people tend to ascribe to theminclude trustworthy, caring, understanding, respectful, helpful,dependable, fun, compassionate, and responsible. Being a good listenerand offering good advice were also seen as key skills of successfulmentors.Tips for Parents to Facilitate MentoringWhileparents clearly play the most influential mentoring role in the livesof their children, it is also clear that peers and other "significant"adults can, and do, affect important developmental outcomes. SADD andLiberty Mutual provide the following tips for parents to facilitatementoring.1.Stay involved! Parent mentors are important regardless of the presenceof other mentors. Teens Today research shows that teens whose parentstalk to them regularly about important issues are more likely to makegood choices.2. Encourage your teens to communicate with and seek advice from adults in their lives.3. Get to know your teen's other mentors. Working together will benefit you and your teen.4.To alleviate potential concerns, find out if the organization has ascreening process, including background checks, for adults who arementoring children.Study MethodologyTheTeens Today 2006 Study involved both qualitative and quantitativephases. The study was initiated with a series of 12 focus groups heldin Atlanta, Los Angeles, and St. Louis conducted on successive eveningsMarch 13- 15, 2006. The study also included a series of in-depthinterviews (IDIs) with teens in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix,and St. Louis.Theresults of the focus groups were used to instruct development of thequantitative research, a self-administered survey conducted at 40schools across the nation. The study involved a weighted total of 3,312students overall to reflect a proportionate distribution of high schooland middle school teens. The survey was administered in May and June2006.SADD,Inc. (Students Against Destructive Decisions) is the nation'spreeminent peer-to-peer youth education organization, with thousands ofchapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. With a missionof preventing destructive behaviors and addressing attitudes that areharmful to young people, SADD sponsors programs that address issuessuch as underage drinking, substance abuse, impaired driving, and teenviolence, depression, and suicide.LibertyMutual Group is one of the largest multi-line insurers in the propertyand casualty industry. Offering a wide range of products and services,including private passenger auto and homeowners insurance, LibertyMutual Group employs 39,000 people in more than 900 offices throughoutthe world.
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