The aim of the study was to evaluate the significance of cognitive and temperamental factors for health and risk behaviors in adolescents. It was assumed that adolescence is a critical period for shaping behaviors of that sort and thus creating better perspectives for prevention. Expected results could help in developing more effective health prevention programmes.
The study was based on a theoretical model HAPA (Health Action Process Approach) by Schwarzer extended with individual predispositions (temperament). Two groups of factors were analysed as explaining health and risk behaviors, cognitive and temperamental. As cognitive behavior expectations (stimulative and health promoting respectively) together with individual concept of health, perception of one’s own health and self efficacy were taken into oonsideration. The study was also aimed at the frequency of risk and health behaviors in adolescents as well as on the description of their personal concept of health.
The study had two stages. In stage one self report measures of the frequency of behaviors, behawior expectations, self efficacy and temperamental traits were used. In stage two, after approximately 5 weeks, scales measuring several aspects of individual concept of health as well as perception of one’s own health were given. The participants were 345 adolescents aged 17-19 in stage one and 276 in stage two.
Results indicate, that both health and risk behaviors had cognitive and temperamental determinants, however the configuration of factors was different in case of particular behaviors. Temperamental trait of activity appeared to be the most significant factor together with behavior expectations. In case of the latter predictions based on HAPA model were confirmed, but on the other side, self efficacy, appeared to be irrelevant when analysed in interaction with other factors. Perception of one’s own health revealed its significance in case of all groups of health behaviors and one group of risk behaviors.
The most frequent health behaviors were those connected with elementary hygiene, preserving physical and mental health. Healthy life style behaviors were less frequent and preventive behaviors the least. Careless behaviors were the most frequent risk behaviors but generally risk behaviors were less frequent than those aimed at preserving health. Behavior expectations were positively correlated with the frequency of corresponding behaviors.
Health appeared to have high rank in the hierarchy of individual values, but not the highest, and being healthy was understood in terms of hedonism and efficiency. There were also differences in characteristics attributed to health that can be situated on „stability – unstability” dimension.