Early mortality among youth in the United States has prompted research to determine precipitating causes. It is believed that health-related behaviors are learned early in life and persist into adulthood. During the developmental period of adolescence, coping behaviors which may have positive or negative effects on teens' lives are adopted. These behaviors predispose adolescents to preventable premature death, disease, and social problems. The purpose of this descriptive study was to replicate and expand the research done by St. Lawrence and Brasfield (1991). This replicated survey expanded the population to include adolescents in Grades 7 and 8, ages 12 to 14 years. The research question was what is the prevalence of healthrisk behaviors among Mississippi's adolescents? The sample consisted of 224 students in Grades 7 through 12 from two schools in rural Southwest Mississippi. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was utilized to identify adolescent behaviors. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data. The findings of this study indicated that Mississippi adolescents engage in a variety of health-risk behaviors which are similar in prevalence to findings of St. Lawrence and Brasfield (1991). However, adolescents in this current study ranked higher in four of the six categories reviewed: intentional injuries (15%), substance abuse (10%), poor dietary practices (65%), and sexual practices (8.5%). The frequency of occurrence of these health-risk behaviors among seventh and eighth graders was equal to, and in some instances higher than, those students in Grades 9 to 12. The researcher concluded that the prevalence of health-risk behaviors in Mississippi adolescents is similar to those found in the St. Lawrence and Brasfield study, including early, middle, and late adolescents. Implications for nursing include assessing adolescents for health-risk behaviors and intervening through health education, counseling, and screening. Nurse practitioners need to be advocates for the development of health education programs which involve adolescents, parents, and teachers. Recommendations for further research include the replication of this study with a larger population of Mississippi adolescents and the development of health-promotion disease prevention programs conducted by the nurse practitioner for students, families, teachers, and the community.


Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


Graduate Nursing

Degree Date


Publication Number


First Advisor

Jerri England

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Patricia Curtis

Third Advisor

Dr. Linda Sullivan

Document Type


Included in

Nursing Commons