Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Family Consumer Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Randall M. Jones


Randall M. Jones


Adolescence has in recent decades gained attention as being salient for study of social trends. Increases in youth social problems are seen nationally, statewide, and locally. They include substance abuse, precocious sexual activity, related consequences of pregnancy and STDs, suicide and depression, truancy, running away, crime against property, and violent crime against persons.

This study integrates three major explanatory theories of adolescent behavior into a macro-synthesis. R. Jesser's Problem Behavior Theory emphasizes how problem behaviors do not occur singularly, nor do they justify unique prevention methods. T. Hirschi's Social Control Theory describes how adolescents with little or no attachment to their community are more likely to be involved in unconventional behaviors. E . Werner's Resilience framework relates adult support and mentoring in childhood and adolescence with lower risk of problems later in life.

This study examines how one element of this synthesis, adolescents' social environment, relates with social problems, or more specifically, how adolescent use of leisure time relates to problem behavior. A stratified random sample of 450 mail-out questionnaires yielded a 40% (181) response rate. Factor analysis placed 27 of 28 problem behavior variables into five subscales. The subscales were then regressed onto 11 individual and sumscore variables from eight hypotheses about adolescent leisure-time use.

Altogether, four of the eight hypotheses were supported by the data, demonstrating relationships between how and with whom adolescents use their leisure time, and their proneness toward problem behaviors. Specifically, unsupervised leisure-time activities were positively related to problem behaviors, sharing 16% of the variance. Organized leisure-time activities were negatively related to problem behaviors, sharing 9% of the variance. Adolescents who spent more time with family members and less time with peers demonstrated fewer problem behaviors, sharing 19% of the variance. Also, adolescents who confide their personal problems to adults, not peers, showed a lower tendency for problem behaviors, sharing 14% of the variance. The results support relationships between adolescent social environment, particularly leisure-time use, and problem behaviors.