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Protective Role of Spirituality in Alcohol and HIV Risk

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Drinking among adolescents is prevalent. By the age of 14, over half all secondary school students drink at least occasionally. Further, adolescents are one of the major at-risk populations for alcohol abuse, with an estimated 30% of adolescent boys and 15% of adolescent girls meeting the criteria for heavy drinking (consuming greater than or equal to 5 drinks at a time) by the age of 18. The initiation of drinking is associated with a variety of negative outcomes for teens including higher risk of alcohol dependence, serious health problems including suicide and alcohol-related traffic accidents. While rates of heavy drinking among other adolescents have declined, rates among African-American youth have stayed consistently high (15% for boys and 5% for girls) over a 10-year period. Frequent heavy drinking places African-American youth at high risk for the development of problems related to their alcohol use. In fact, African- American adolescents who drink experience disproportionately more negative consequences as a result of alcohol use even though their levels of use are comparable or even lower than youth of other ethnic groups. Due to the severity of the problems associated with adolescent alcohol misuse, researchers have begun to explore protective factors that may inoculate at-risk adolescents from developing problem drinking patterns. Several of those inquiries have examined the potential protective role that religiosity and spirituality might play. Higher ratings of global religiosity and spirituality do indeed appear to be protective factors against problem drinking in adolescents. However, in adults recent evidence suggests that the extent of an individual's belief that God directly controls his or her alcohol use may have particular importance as a protective factor against problem drinking. This new evidence suggests a need for research on the protective role of alcohol- related God/Higher Power control beliefs in adolescents, however no published studies exist. The dearth of studies in this area is due at least in part to the paucity of available measures of domain-specific God/Higher Power control beliefs for use with African-American youth, 2) to explore the protective role of alcohol-related God/Higher Power control beliefs in the development of problem drinking among African-American youth.
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