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Esteban Delisio





    Whether youths benefit from taking part in sports may depend upon where they live, two studies suggest. A study of urban youngsters shows participating in sports has a positive effect on their self-esteem and social skills and may deter early use of marijuana. A study of rural black girls, however, comes to the opposite conclusion. It finds that in this instance girls who participate in sports are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior and substance abuse, the authors said. In a study of 445 seventh-grade youths from economically depressed inner-city neighborhoods in central Massachusetts, researchers at Clark University found numerous advantages of girls and boys participating in sports, including overall higher self-esteem and being judged as more socially skilled and less shy and withdrawn by their teachers. Teen boys who were in an organized sport during the past year were less likely to have smoked pot than their peers who had shied away from a! thletics. In a study of 4,000 high school African-American females in rural communities, the researchers found that sports participation actually increased the likelihood of drug use and such behavior as belonging to a gang. The rural environment in the study has important influences, said study author Matthew Taylor of the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. There is more substance abuse in rural than in urban settings and there are fewer peers in rural areas, he said. "If one does not wish to hang out with peers who are involved in drug use, there may not be many options for those youth as opposed to urban youth who may have more access to a wider variety of peer groups," he said.
    A study of more than 80,000 adolescents shows one of 10 teen-age girls and one in 20 boys have experienced date violence or rape. The victims reported having higher rates of eating disorders, thoughts of suicide and lower scores on tests measuring emotional well-being and self-esteem, the study authors said. "Significant changes in mental health can be a signal to parents, health professionals and educators that abuse may be occurring in these adolescents' dating experiences," said Diann Ackard, a psychologist in Golden Valley, Minn. She and colleagues found that nearly 9 percent of girls and 6 percent of boys reported some type of abusive date-related experience. "Preventative efforts need to begin before high school," Ackard said. "Parents, guardians, educators and youth leaders should discuss with adolescents appropriate dating interactions, safer dating situations and what to do in high-risk scenarios."
    The current measures of driving ability among seniors are not good indictors of who will be most likely to have an accident, a study shows. The authors recommended a new tool that can measure and improve visual information processing, an important measure of driving ability. The tool is a test called UFOV, they said at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco. The current measures, such as the visual acuity tests used for most driving tests, are not always accurate in assessing accident risk, they said. UFOV measures visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and visual fields, visual-spatial function and cognitive flexibility, mental status and visual information processing ability, said study co-author Daniel Roenker of Western Kentucky University. As part of the UFOV exam, drivers can undergo speed-of-processing training, which sharpens skills needed to drive well, the authors said. "Currently, UFOV is being used as part o! f a brief screening battery in a large study in Maryland. The study is designed to determine the effectiveness of the battery in a 'real world' setting. The long-term goal is to identify early at-risk drivers so the appropriate remediation can be provided and maximum mobility maintained," Roenker said.
    A study indicates juvenile delinquents are more likely to consider suicide than are teens who don't get into trouble. The study authors think that may be due in part to the kids' lack of feeling of belonging to a community and little parental involvement. In the study, nearly a quarter of adolescents surveyed in three Oakland, Calif., middle schools said they were depressed enough to consider suicide. Most of these youths used drugs and participated in illegal activities. More than half were girls, the authors said at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco. Of the 1,232 students in the study, 256 reported feeling suicidal. These also reported the most delinquency, having used cigarettes, marijuana, ecstasy or other drugs more than their peers who did not contemplate suicide, said co-author Charles Go of the University of California, Davis. These youngsters also were selling drugs, using weapons and had been arrested ! at higher rates than their contemporaries. "Higher feelings of community belonging and parental monitoring do play an important role in protecting against delinquency and suicidal contemplation," Go said. "We found community belonging predicted how involved parents were with their kids which predicted how much a child exhibited delinquent behaviors and the resulting suicidal ideation."
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