Original article| Volume 48, ISSUE 1, P36-43, January 2011

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Role Modeling, Risk, and Resilience in California Adolescents



      To examine the relationship between role model presence, type of role model, and various health-risk and health-protective behaviors among California adolescents.


      We used cross-sectional data on 4,010 multiethnic adolescents aged 12–17 years from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, a population-based random-digit dial telephone survey of more than 40,000 California households. The survey, conducted every other year since 2001, collects extensive demographic, health, and health-related information.


      Fifty-nine percent of adolescents identified a role model. Affluent teens were more likely to have a role model than lower income teens. Role models were generally of the same ethnicity and gender as the teens; ethnic congruence was higher among African Americans and whites than Latinos and Asians; gender congruence was higher among males. Type of role model was significantly associated with health-related behaviors. Identification of a teacher was strongly associated with positive health behaviors. Correlations with health-promoting behaviors were generally smaller in magnitude but consistently positive among family member and athlete role models. Peer or entertainer role models were associated with health-risk behaviors.


      Not only role model presence but also the type of role model is an important predictor of adolescent health-related behaviors. Our findings have implications for designing youth targeted interventions and policies involving role models.


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