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New Study Shows Link Between Sex and Violence Among N.C. High School Males

High school males who have been involved in a pregnancy are more likely to engage in behaviors that increase their risk of injury or death, according to a new report titled, "North Carolina Adolescent Males: Linking High Risk Behavior."

These same males are more likely to fight, carry a weapon to school, attempt suicide, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and use illegal substances, said the report''s author, Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., vice-chair for Health Services Research for the Department of Pediatrics at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and director of the Brenner Center for Child and Adolescent Health.

In 1997, 40.5 percent of sexually experienced males who carried a gun to school had been involved in a pregnancy, while only 13.2 percent of non-gun carriers had been involved in a pregnancy, according to the report. Also, 27 percent of males who had been in six or more fights in the last year had also been involved in a pregnancy.

"This data is not meant to imply that violent behavior causes pregnancy or vice versa," DuRant said. "It shows that health risk behaviors co-occur and that we must address and focus on a full range of behaviors to make an impact."

The report was written by DuRant for the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina, a statewide, United Way agency whose mission is to prevent teen pregnancy. The coalition works with public officials, reports data and research on a wide range of adolescent health issues and conducts training programs for those working directly with teens. This year the coalition is focusing on adolescent males.

"Apart from the efforts by the coalition, there have not been many programs that focus on the high school male," said DuRant, who is also a board member of the coalition. "Most of the sex education is targeted to females and is knowledge-based as opposed to using a skills building approach. For example, we need to teach children about certain high-risk behaviors, but we also need to teach them how to effectively communicate and negotiate their way out of a dangerous situation. We also need to teach them how to avoid the situation in the first place. Just providing knowledge-based education does not have a positive effect on reducing high-risk behaviors."

Other data in the report showed:

  • In 1995, 18.3 percent of males who had drunk alcohol 10 or more times in the previous 30 days had been involved in a pregnancy, compared to 3.4 percent of males who did not drink.

  • In 1995, between 33.3 and 67.7 percent of males with two or more suicide attempts in the previous year had also been involved in a pregnancy.

  • In 1995, between 16 and 26.3 percent of males who smoked marijuana 20 one or more times in the previous 30 days reported past pregnancy involvement.

  • In 1997, 16.9 percent of males who had smoked cigarettes on 10 or more of the previous 30 days had also been involved in a pregnancy.

"The data show that there is a 38 percent increase in male pregnancy involvement from 1995 to 1997," DuRant said. "This reinforces to me that we need to work with the whole teen, addressing all key problem behaviors to be successful in reducing pregnancy and overall teen high-risk behaviors."

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