The relationship between participation in organized church youth activities and health risk behaviors
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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between youth participation in organized church youth activities and selected adolescent health risk behaviors. The sample used for the study included 72 youths representing eight Episcopal churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. The survey instrument included 95 items: 83 questions from the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 demographic items, and 8 items developed by the researcher relevant to church and youth group participation. Surveys were mailed to the parents of high school youth currently listed on church rosters to obtain permission to participate in the study. Participation was voluntary and anonymous, with youth completing the survey during youth group. Chi-square analysis was used to examine the existence of health risks in the context of high or low participation in organized youth group activities. Spearman rho correlation analysis was used to determine if there was a relationship between youth participation in organized church youth activities and adoption of risk behaviors. Statistical significance was determined at the .05 level of significance. Although some slight differences were found for the high- versus lowparticipation respondents in regard to their health risk, none of these differences were statistically significant differences at the .05 levels of significance. Spearman rho correlation analysis indicated a positive relationship between participation in organized church youth activities and risk behaviors associated with personal safety, violence, tobacco, alcohol, drug, and sexual risks. However, these relationships were weak and none were statistically significant at the .05 level of significance. Suicide risks, unhealthy diet, and inactivity risks were found to be negatively correlated with participation in organized church youth activity, but again, these relationships were weak and none were statistically significant at the .05 level. These findings offer important implications regarding the future direction of church youth group programs desiring to make a positive impact on risk behaviors and development of group norms embracing healthy lifestyle choices.